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Professor strives to expand diversity in teacher education

Professor Strives to Expand Diversity in Teacher Education
Professor Marleen Pugach came to USC from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Marleen Pugach, the new holder of the Robert A. Naslund Chair in Curriculum Theory at the USC Rossier School of Education, has spent her career advocating for the reform of teacher education, namely, its inclusion of special education issues within the wider context of diversity.

“If we want students with disabilities to be well-served, classrooms have to embrace the full range of diversity, and part of that diversity is special education,” said USC Rossier visiting professor Pugach. “But there is often a divide between teacher education and special education, and my work is focused on reconstructing that relationship so that all students who struggle in school are better served.”

Pugach came to USC from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), where she served as a professor and directed the elementary and middle-teacher education program for urban schools. At USC Rossier, she engages in collaborative research on the school’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, which U.S. News & World Report ranked among the country’s top online graduate education programs.

She recently led a $5 million project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to reform the preparation of teachers for urban schools at UWM. Currently she is disseminating a set of new practices in teacher education for a $1.5 million project at UWM designed to strengthen the content preparation of special education teachers.

Her research in inclusive education, diversity and urban communities serves her scholarship at USC Rossier, whose mission is to strengthen urban education.

“When you’re working in urban education, diversity is at its most intense,” Pugach said. “A high proportion of students of color and students whose first language is not English are often inappropriately identified as needing special education, and this is an indication of the complicated ways diversity and disability are intertwined. Within teacher education, we need more interaction between faculty who specialize in multicultural education, bilingual education and special education to address this challenge together.”

Pugach is co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Teacher Education, which will focus on the perspectives of faculty who specialize in cultural diversity. USC Rossier faculty members Robert Rueda and Jamy Stillman are co-authoring an article for the issue, which is due to be published later this year.

Pugach, who earned the UWM Research Foundation Senior Faculty Award in 2010, said she continues to work toward advancing the teaching profession as a career.

“We need to commit to making teaching a stable, well-resourced, respected career, and we have a lot of work to do on that,” she said.

The Naslund Chair, created in 1985, is a three-year appointment funded through a $1.5 million pledge from Robert A. and Mildred Naslund. A former professor of education, Robert Naslund established the chair after teaching at USC for 36 years.

Professor strives to expand diversity in teacher education

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