The Social Science Credential Program at California State University has trained hundreds of teachers who now teach in California secondary schools. We invited alumni and current students to give their perspective on the Social Science Credential Program.
John Dowsett (Economics and AP World Teacher, Orange County School of the Arts)
As a student who paid my own way through school, I hesitated at first to take on the additional time and expense of completing the subject matter competency coursework. I think completing the coursework was the best investment I made in my professional development though, especially now that I am teaching. Not only did I gain knowledge of historical thinking skills, historical inquiry, and more general social science content, I learned how to apply this knowledge in the classroom. In a job market that demands new educators to be well-rounded and experienced candidates, my completion of the subject matter competency coursework set me apart as a candidate in my job interview. For future prospective students I would highly recommend they complete the coursework as well: it will allow you to feel confident and competent when interviewing for any teaching position.
Kelly Ducat (Fountain Valley HS)
The subject matter competency option prepares future educators far better than the preparation for the CSET could. Yes, testing the students on a variety of historical facts is important, however the subject matter option supports them in learning these same facts while teaching them how to critically analyze and incorporate the historical thinking skills into their historical learning. History 401 in particular pushed my boundaries as a student, but I believe that the skills I learned in that course will follow me through what I hope will be a long teaching career. We worked with our peers, establishing a sense of professionalism and gained a deeper understanding of the historical thinking skills that are merely skimmed at the surface in other courses. The reading material, class discussions, instruction, exams, and group project absolutely changed the way I view the historical discipline and shaped the means by which I plan to teach it.
Patrick Flanagan (Lakewood HS, LBUSD)
While the subject matter program requires the completion of a rigorous set of coursework, the value of the knowledge gained by the end will far outweigh the challenges and time/energy expenditures. Beyond the development of a vast repertoire of content knowledge through courses such as History 396, the subject matter program exposes pre-service teachers to pedagogical theory and methods with History 401. The class develops historical thinking skills such as periodization and causation alongside content and pedagogical insights, and students engage with current historiography and research-based teaching practices that can be implemented in other courses as well as in their own future classrooms. The subject matter program requires the ability to work with peers on an appropriate academic level, discussing the evidence behind historical narratives and teaching strategies alike while working on ways to translate these ideas into secondary-level classrooms.
Paige Shakeri (World & US History, Culver City HS)
I originally graduated from CSULB with my BA in History. Immediately after, I embarked on the credential program doing the subject matter. I cannot express how well-prepared I am to teach any content due to taking this path. It seems like an extensive amount of work--and it was--but the breadth of knowledge you obtain is unparalleled. You just can't get that through experience. In addition to my course work, I was able to make professional connections through networking with professors that helped me during the hiring process. When I completed my credential in the Spring of 2010, it was extrememly difficult to find a job. With that being said, many employers knew of the credential program at CSULB and commented on the wonderful teachers they had seen come from it.
I am currently teaching at Nipomo HS. In my career, have already taught grades 8, 9, 10, and 12. I cannot express my gratitude toward my professors into molding me into the professional I am today. My content knowledge allows me to be continuously flexible in moving content areas, and the strategies I learned through my "Methods" course (450S) with Dr. Manos gave me a varied array of lesson techiniques to pull from.
Manoj Choudhary (Chandler School, Pasadena)
When I first embarked on changing careers from computer forensic consulting to teaching, I never realized how integral CSULB would be in my success. The professors in the history department and the classes at CSULB provided me the knowledge necessary to succeed in the classroom both as a student and now as a teacher. The guidance and education I received assisted me in gaining employment at the middle school where I was placed as a student teacher after completing my credential courses.
After student teaching, I received a job offer to teach history and technology at Faye Ross middle school in Artesia. After a year of teaching middle school, in November 2010 I accepted a position teaching US and World History at Hawthorne High School. I now teach at the Chandler School in Pasadena. My employment success is a reflection of two things: hard work and the strength of the history department at CSULB. Opting to take additional classes in the subject matter program exposed me to professors and opportunities that increased my knowledge of curriculum and history as a discipline. I firmly believe that the subject matter and credential program are worth the time and energy necessary to gain a credential. I highly recommend this program for potential history teachers.
Lucas Plotnik (Culver City HS)
I received my BA in Sociology from CSULB where I then furthered my education by enrolling in the History/Social Science credential program. Through this program I obtained teaching methods, theories and counseling from a qualified and passionate faculty that still influence my teaching today. When I was in the program I had the option of taking the CSET or additional coursework to meet the subject matter proficiency requirement. My adviser recommended I take the coursework, and I am glad I did because I feel that it properly prepared me for any teaching assignment. Almost immediately after finishing my student teaching, I was offered a long-term sub job in the same district. Following the long-term sub assignment I was hired on as a full time social studies teacher. I highly recommend this program to anyone interested in teaching social studies.
Ian Eddy (Hawthorne HS)
Since finishing the California State University subject matter program, I have become a teacher who is extremely comfortable in a classroom setting. The subject matter not only prepared me to plan my curriculum for the year, but it also helped me become a lot more flexible and creative in the classroom. There were times when I felt that the workload for the program was extensive, but when I realized that I had finished several content units prior to stepping into the classroom, I was relieved that I was overly prepared to take on the daily challenges that a teacher faces. I highly recommend this program because it will prepare you to become a great teacher who can teach in any classroom environment. I was able to secure a teaching position shortly after I finished the program, and I have been teaching ever since. I believe that the subject matter program is not only necessary but imperative to becoming a great instructor.
Ben Huntsinger (Doig Middle School, Garden Grove USD)
Presumably like many students, I had little idea of what to expect in the teaching program. I had heard that you could essentially ‘test out’ of the subject competency classes but had heard that it is less beneficial career-wise. So, I enrolled in the several classes that would essentially teach me how to become the most effective and knowledgeable educator that I could possibly become. Let me prompt this by saying that most of the courses (especially History 401) are rigorous. I struggled readily. However, I firmly believe that without this struggle, I would not possess the knowledge and confidence that I have as I move into student teaching. Through these courses, the ‘Historical Thinking Skills’ have become thoroughly engrained into how I think about history and history education. I am now able to adequately prepare lesson plans that challenge students and have them engage in historical thinking. By forgoing the coursework, future history teachers are missing out on crucial skills and pedagogical strategies that will help them, and more importantly, their future students.
Zack Youngblood (AP World, Lennox Math, Science and Technology Academy)
The content knowledge was the easiest part of the program. While compiling all the information for the 100 essay prompts in just one semester is definitely time-consuming and mind-numbing, the real challenge was acquiring and implementing these historical thinking skills that are taught in the program. After completing this program, my mind is always switched to History 401 mode, where everything I encounter in history can be taught in ‘The 401 Way.’ Despite the amount of historical content I knew beforehand, the subject matter program and its focus on historical thinking is the reason why I can now teach history.
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