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Bethel’s Elementary Education Program Ranked No. 1 in the State

Bethel’s Elementary Education Program Ranked No. 1 in the State

Since 2015, graduating students and alumni have placed pins on maps, located in the education department, to mark where they’ve found teaching jobs. The map serves as an inspiration and networking tool for Bethel students and grads.

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) ranked Bethel University’s elementary education program 15th in the country in their latest Teacher Prep Review. The high ranking puts Bethel’s program above those of all other Minnesota schools, as well as all schools contained within the five-state Midwest.

Seann Dikkers, department chair and associate professor of education, says he was proud to see Bethel—among other small Christian universities—rank so highly on the national list. “It shows that the quality of what we’re doing is on par with the best in the world,” he says. “And as Christians, we should be scholars. We should be doing our work not just for our own advancement but for the advancement of the kingdom.”

The list, which was released in December, ranks 875 undergraduate elementary education programs at private and public institutions throughout the U.S. The NCTQ evaluates programs based on selectivity, diversity, student teaching experience, job placement rates, employer feedback, program content, and other variables that develop effective teachers.

Bethel’s high rankings are the result of achievement and innovation in all of these categories. As a whole, the education department boasts incredible placement rates—with 100 percent of responding spring 2016 graduates (who sought employment) currently working in their field.

The department also places a strong emphasis on the importance of diversity in the teacher workforce. Professor of Education Jay Rasmussen says that the elementary education faculty team has spent recent years focusing on “what it means to be culturally responsive as a teacher,” and that the department seeks student teacher placements in culturally diverse settings. “[Bethel students] believe that they need to learn about other cultures, understand those cultures deeply, and understand how to work with students from different backgrounds,” he says.

Much of this training is gained during students’ Block II experience—a facet of Bethel’s elementary education program that has been receiving national attention in the field of education for years. During Block II, students are placed on a rigorous 18-credit schedule where they dive into methods courses—such as literacy, math, and science—that serve as a foundational pillar for their teaching careers. Simultaneously, students are expected to spend 300 to 400 hours gaining field experience. The intense semester is a prelude to student teaching and allows students to connect theory with practice.

Alone, the Block II model represents much of what the NCTQ looks for in teacher preparation programs, and in conjunction with the education department’s other classes and field experience opportunities, it makes Bethel’s elementary education degree a unique commodity. But Dikkers says the model is about even more than equipping future educators. “It’s about building strong communities and relationships, which hits right at Bethel’s mission—to make whole and holy persons,” he says.

For Rasmussen, the Block II model’s recognition and the program’s overall high praise from the NCTQ serve as affirmation that he and other Bethel education professors are achieving their ultimate goal. “I think everybody involved really cares about our students. We get to know them on a personal basis, and we’re really committed to their success.”

Learn more about Bethel’s education programs