David Fuentes is a professor in the department of teacher education at William Paterson University, where he also serves as a Dean's Fellow and co-director of the University's Center for Teaching Excellence. In his research, Professor Fuentes investigates educator experiences, particularly the experience of educators of color in K-12 schools and higher education settings, as well as issues of equity and outcome in high needs school communities. He earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Pennsylvania State University and his MEd. in multicultural education from University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Q: Tell us more about yourself, your career trajectory, and your role at the University.
A: When I was 22 years old, I had recently graduated from my undergrad degree in pre-law and found myself with the same restaurant job I had while working my way through college. I was not satisfied. I responded to a job as a paraprofessional in a school mostly because I had days off and the job paid $12 per hour, which was good at the time. Needless to say, I never looked back, became hooked working in schools with children, and pursued teacher licensure while I worked during the day at a school and at night at a restaurant. I was a K-12 teacher for five years and then applied for a job teaching at a university in Puerto Rico.
Q: What are the majors and endorsements offered within your department?
A: Most majors we offer are geared toward becoming a licensed teacher. The education major at the undergrad levelcouples with another major so all education majors are double majors. Most education programs that lead to ateaching license are 30 to 36 credits. They do require more than coursework, as all teachers are required to passstate testing and also complete field experience and teacher performance assessments. What’s cool is that inthe College of Education at William Paterson, we have the philosophy that we are all in this together, and we all work hard as a team to to help our students succeed despite the rigor of licensure.
Q: What kind of qualities do you like to see in students who want to pursue a career in education?
A: I believe the most important qualities to become an effective teacher would be the desire to form relationships, and a positive and caring attitude toward self and others. No two days as a teacher are the same. No two students and no two classes are the same. Every day is new; it should be fun and exciting. We have to make it fun and exciting so that kids learn in our classrooms. The happier kids are, the better they learn, and the teacher cultivates happiness in our classrooms--happiness around content and the important questions in learning.
Q: Does the department connect students with student-teaching opportunities?
A: We place students in schools so they can perform their required clinical field requirements for the state. This is agreat way to form a relationship with a district and potentially land a job upon graduation. Field componentsbegin early in the College of Education and are coupled with every semester in the major. Our students now also have theopportunity to work as substitute teachers in their schools, where they can earn great money while studying to become a licensed teacher.
Q: What advice would you give students seeking a degree in education?
A: Want to make a difference in your community? Want to give back? Be a role model? If so, teaching may be foryou! We have an exciting career with gainful employment and opportunity. Like me, one can begin as ateacher and quickly experience other jobs in the field of education that can impact teaching and learning in avariety of ways. Don’t let your past school experiences determine your desire to become a teacher. Be the kind ofteacher you didn’t have but wanted, or the kind of teacher you did have and loved!
Q: Name one special thing about your department.
A: At the center of our department and our mission and vision for teachers and teacher-candidates is the wellbeingof children and what is best for the WP students and community overall. We truly value students and put them first in all wedo. Come learn about how to learn and teach better. Come learn how you can change lives and be a changeagent while experiencing a career filled with joy and enthusiasm. Consider becoming a teacher with a degree from WP.
William Paterson University
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