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August 7, 2002

The cover of the Edutopia CD An SFSU professor and a well-known teacher-training program are spotlighted in an education book and CD developed by Hollywood director-producer George Lucas.

Edutopia, the brainchild of Lucas, who a decade ago established the George Lucas Educational Foundation, gives readers an inside look at successful schools and classrooms across the country where children are learning to their full potential. The schools in the book do not resemble the institutions that most adults attended as children -- sealed off from contact with the outside community. Instead, as the book points out, these schools are welcoming community centers, where parents, artists, architects, physicians and other members flow through the school contributing their expertise and resources.

Education Professor Cecelia Wambach spent six years as a co-principal at John Muir Elementary School in San Francisco as part of the John Muir Alternative Teacher Education (MATE) program, where each year she oversaw 30 teacher-credentialing SFSU students who worked side-by-side with classroom teachers. The mission: to create a new model for elementary school teaching and a new model for teacher preparation.

The details about MATE are written by Wambach and her co-principal Virginia Watkins, and it's one of 40 success stories included in the book. The MATE program is still going strong, but Wambach returned to the University full time in 2001. Lecturer Pat Chandler is now director of the MATE program at the school site, retaining a true partnership between Muir and the University.

Student interns arrive at Muir each August as teachers set up their classrooms. They visit from class to class and talk with teachers about curricula and classroom activities and then select which grades they want to teach the upcoming year.

The interns then meet with the entire teaching staff and share stories. After getting to know the students, each teacher picks two candidates to work in his or her classroom. The co-principals -- Watkins and Chandler -- have the final say and create teacher-intern pairings that represent a diverse group for the children by considering race, gender and special interests.

Rather than take classes at SFSU for a year and then spend the following semester as a student teacher, MATE interns both teach and take courses at the inner-city elementary school for one year. Interns are able to apply the theory they learned that afternoon to the next day's class. Wambach and Watkins found that immediate immersion in the classroom worked best for the interns who want experience in urban education. Eventually the interns serve as substitutes when teachers are out of the classroom for workshops.

As Lucas describes it, MATE and the other programs were chosen because they all took risks.

"This book tells the success stories of schools leading the way to this new future. The stories are not hypothetical, they're actual accounts of courageous pioneers -- teachers, principals, superintendents and educators at all levels -- who are blazing trails to a new horizon," Lucas writes in the foreword. "They have taken risks, experimented, and in many cases, had to 'buck the system.' I believe these committed educators are among the most important individuals in our society. By telling their stories, we honor them and their unselfish dedication to the best hope we have for ensuring the future of our democracy: our children."

The book is published by Jossey-Bass. To contact Jossey-Bass visit the Web site or call (888) 378-2537.

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Last modified August 7, 2002, by the Office of Public Affairs