Rebecca Kantor spent 29 years at The Ohio State University as a teacher, researcher and administrator. But she couldn’t resist the appeal of taking on a new challenge at a dynamic institution that serves its urban community and is located in the heart of a growing and energetic city. Named dean for the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD) last Spring, Kantor traveled back and forth between Denver and Columbus, Ohio, for nearly six months as she transitioned from her work at The Ohio State University (Kantor vita.pdf) to CU Denver.
During those Denver visits, she spent time getting familiar with the university overall as well as the SEHD faculty, staff, partners and the school’s programs. It was important for Kantor to complete a project at OSU before ending her time as professor and a second term as director of The School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education and Human Ecology.
Kantor is very clear: she only applied for this specific job at CU Denver because it appealed to her professionally and personally. “This move,” said Kantor, “was not about leaving, but about coming to a place.” Professionally, an important aspect of CU Denver is the “urban-serving nature of the institution and the stated mission here,” said Kantor. The size and scope of SEHD also were attractive to Kantor who describes herself as “a much more ‘on the ground’ kind of leader.”
As she has gotten to know more about CU Denver and, especially, SEHD, Kantor is impressed by the passion demonstrated by faculty, the high level of engagement by constituents, strong partnerships in place across education, community mental health, research collaborations and the robust professional school development network that has a 19-year history. Students “live the life of a teacher” from the start of their program as apprentices in residence with experienced teachers and supported by site professors from SEHD. “When they graduate, they look more like second- or third-year teachers than first-year teachers,” Kantor explained.
In the near term, Kantor’s focus will include telling the SEHD story. “We have some incredible people and programs, including teacher and counselor preparation, educational leadership programs and doctoral research that advances the fields of education and human development and informs our work.” A major priority is to diversify the teacher workforce by recruiting and retaining students from under-represented backgrounds. “Our counseling program’s multicultural emphasis is very relevant to our city,” Kantor said.
Looking at the future for SEHD, Kantor sees cross-disciplinary potential for expanded ties with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Public Affairs and the Business School. There’s also opportunity in creating new undergraduate programs, while business and community ties present even more potential to engage externally. Kantor noted CU Denver’s participation in the Denver Education Compact.
“A city’s strength is tied to its schools,” said Kantor. She noted that Colorado is a “change-and-reform state that is ‘at the table’ for the national conversation. The recent past and the near future are incredibly active times for reform and educational policy in the U.S.” She plans to ‘get to know’ the local education community and to be active in the work of the state as well as the nation. Her own background is in early childhood and elementary education, and she is aware of the strong state agenda for early childhood here.
Kantor sees some ‘promising’ activity on the education landscape such as the idea of teacher induction for new teachers similar to the internships for medical doctors; the important dialogue regarding pay for performance and collaborations to produce multiple, high-quality pathways into teaching. Collaborations such as the one we have with Teach for America are important to draw diverse and strong students into the profession whenever their interest in teaching emerges.
Kantor’s new book co-edited with David Fernie and Samara Madrid has just been published — Educating Toddlers to Teachers: Learning to See and Influence the School and Peer Cultures of Classrooms from Hampton Press.