News & Events
MARS HILL COLLEGE AMONG THE FIRST TO OFFER INTEGRATED EDUCATION MAJOR
This summer, Mars Hill College will become one of only two institutions of higher learning in the state to offer an Integrated Education major, allowing graduates upon completion of a single major to be fully certified in both general elementary education and special education.
|Dr. Chris Cain (right) counsels Education majors like Rebekah Owens to consider the Integrated Education major.|
According to Dr. Chris Cain, Associate Professor, and coordinator of the Special Education Program at Mars Hill, the new major differs from both the traditional elementary education major and the special education major because the two subject areas are thoroughly intertwined.
“This program enables the student to be immersed through an infusion method in special education courses and general education courses all the way through his or her educational career,” Cain said. “So from the time they enter the education department here at Mars Hill until they graduate, they will be focusing on both of those fields simultaneously.”
Currently, most college students obtain a degree in elementary education, and then take extra courses to add special education onto their area of licensure. The integrated, or blended, major is on the forefront of research for the best educational methods, he said, and will offer tremendous benefits, even for those teachers whose careers will focus exclusively on one of the two areas.
Cain said: “This degree will not only produce stronger teachers in the area of elementary education but also in the area of special education, as they will have a much greater understanding of the curriculum and have additional methods courses that will enable them to meet the demands of making the curriculum accessible to every child.”
For those who will be general education teachers, the ongoing assessment emphasized in this major will sensitize them to detect and solve issues for children who are at risk of needing special intervention before they become problems, he said.
In December of 2009, U.S. News and World Report listed Special Education and related fields 6th of the 50 best career choices for 2010. According to Cain, this is because special education is a rapidly growing field which almost guarantees employment for qualified graduates. Now, the integrated education major improves the employment odds even more by increasing career options.
Dr. Christiaan Ramsey, principal of Mars Hill Elementary School agrees that the new major will result in graduates who are appealing to school system employers. “Many schools and school systems are moving to an integrated model of special education. The simple truth is that in most cases, students learn at a higher level while they are in the regular education classroom. Teachers who are double certified have the opportunity to address the specific needs of both special education students and regular education students in the same room.”
Not only will integrated education majors be attractive as employees in terms of their qualifications, but also in terms of the financial benefits to the school system. “As local boards of education tighten their budget belts, there will be an increasing demand to address student needs with fewer resources,” Ramsey said. “Unfortunately this may mean fewer teachers in the classroom. Teachers who are certified in both regular ed. and special ed. fill an important gap by being able to address specific instructional needs and provide differentiation of instruction for all students.”
Dr. Dan Lunsford, president of Mars Hill College, said that the new Integrated Education major confirms the college’s position as a leader in preparing students to be the quality educators of tomorrow. “Mars Hill’s Education Department has been consistent in responding to the needs of the K-12 education sector. Public schools have a need for highly qualified teachers, and I’m proud that our education department is at the vanguard of meeting that need in a way that is most beneficial for teachers and for their future students.”
Across the state, only Peace College in Raleigh offers a similar blended education major. The integrated education major at Mars Hill College is designed to be a 4 ½ year plan of study, including one semester for internship or “student teaching.”
For more information, contact Dr. Chris Cain at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Janet Fortune at email@example.com.