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WCSU graduate programs in education:
Preparing a new generation of teachers and instructional leaders

From its founding as Danbury State Normal School in 1903, Western has remained committed to the mission of providing an education curriculum designed — in the words of the school’s original state charter — “to prepare teachers in the art of instructing and governing in the public schools of the state.” Today Western’s traditionally strong undergraduate programs in education have been complemented by an array of graduate degree options offering foundations for future careers ranging from special education to school administration, as well as an accelerated path for midlife career-changers to enter the teaching profession.

While teacher education no longer represents the predominant focus of undergraduate studies as it did over more than half a century at Danbury State, the WCSU education and educational psychology department remains a leading force in preparing students for future careers in teaching in Connecticut. At the same time, WCSU’s Division of Graduate and External Studies offers a diverse array of master’s and doctoral degree programs designed to provide specialized knowledge and experience targeted to meet specific professional needs of educators in elementary and secondary schools.

One example of how the Western graduate program prepares certified teachers for future challenges in the profession is the career path of Dr. Bryan Luizzi, who earned a WCSU master’s degree in education with a concentration in instructional technology in 2000. Appointed this summer as principal of New Canaan High School, Luizzi has assumed school administrative positions of growing responsibility over the past decade that have offered the opportunity to introduce the rapidly evolving applications of information technology in the classroom. During his tenure as Brookfield High School principal from 2006 to 2011, he launched initiatives to bring SMART boards and Google apps into daily instruction and set the foundations to provide iPad access to incoming freshman as part of an IT literacy pilot project. In today’s IT environment where students have instant access to vastly increased information sources, Luizzi observed, educators “must ask ourselves how this changes the experience of teaching and learning for both student and teacher.”

Professionals in education who wish to pursue a career in school administration will find an exciting option for graduate study in Western’s Doctorate of Education in Instructional Leadership (Ed.D.) curriculum. Founded in 2003, the program is the only doctorate in instructional leadership offered in Connecticut, and one of just 13 such doctoral programs nationwide. Luizzi cited a compelling need for training staff to address the challenges of educational change in the 21st century: “Today’s schools are yearning for administrators who are instructional leaders.” 

The Ed.D. program’s mission statement identifies its objectives as the preparation of educators drawn from many specializations — from classroom teachers and curriculum specialists to school counselors and administrators — for the challenges of creating innovative learning environments, transforming educational organizations, and responding to educational reforms at the regional and national level. Under the guidance of program coordinator Dr. Marcia Delcourt, Western education faculty have forged a productive collaboration with school district superintendents and school administrators across western Connecticut to determine how the Ed.D. curriculum can best serve the needs of area schools. Doctoral candidates consult with administrators in the districts where they work to define dissertation topics suitable to the requirements and priorities of their schools.

WCSU provided an important opportunity for working professionals considering a career change to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to attain teaching certification with the introduction in 2009 of the Master of Arts in Teaching program. This innovative curriculum at Western enables students with a bachelor’s degree to complete over a period of 15 months all requirements to earn the M.A.T. degree and state certification to teach biology, math or Spanish, academic subjects identified as areas where shortages of qualified teachers exist in Connecticut secondary and elementary education. In designing the new program, the education department paid particular attention to providing options to take courses at afternoon and evening hours and in varied formats — in the classroom, online and a hybrid classroom/online format — to accommodate the special needs of working students who wish to continue their current employment while completing the program.

Western’s graduate program also offers Master of Science in Education programs suited to the professional needs of college graduates who hold a teaching certificate and wish to strengthen their skills and knowledge in specific areas. Concentration options for the M.S. in Education include curriculum, instructional technology, reading and special education. In addition, WCSU provides graduate programs to earn a Master of Science in Music Education, as well as an M.S. in Counselor Education with a choice of concentration in school counseling or clinical mental health counseling.

Thora Perkins '76 found that her Western master’s degree in education with reading option provided a valuable foundation both in building a successful first career as a reading consultant for Brookfield Public Schools, and in securing the necessary certification to embark on a second career three decades later in the health care field.  Perkins was recently appointed as director of therapeutic recreation at Laurel Ridge Health Care Center in Ridgefield, and she advises current Western students to seek a well-rounded education that develops skills applicable to a wide range of professional careers.

Kristen Geller '90, who earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education at Western, has drawn from her studies in elementary and early childhood education to contribute both as a teacher and as an advocate for education in her community. Her professional work in education has included positions as an instructor at Wooster School in Danbury and as a kindergarten and first-grade teacher for the Mount Pleasant School District in Westchester County, N.Y. Author of six teacher manuals for Scholastic Publishers, Geller has taken advantage of her education experience to serve since June as a member of the Board of Education in Demarest, N.J., where she now resides with her family. “I was thrilled to become a board member and really want to be an asset,” Geller said. “With my teaching background, I know how a board should operate and support the teachers, the school and the community.”

Western’s graduate programs open a diversity of options for educators to explore in advancing their careers.  Here is a summary of WCSU master’s degree programs in the education field:

  • The M.S. in Education with option in curriculum seeks to explore curriculum theory and related contemporary research in the field, offering certified teachers an opportunity to apply theory and research findings to classroom practices with the goal of improving the effectiveness of instruction. 
  • The M.S. in Education with option in instructional technology seeks to expand the professional knowledge of teachers with respect to the use of instructional and information technology in the classroom.
  • The M.S. in Education with option in reading seeks to promote excellence and purposeful direction in reading instruction. The primary focus is on classroom reading instruction at the elementary school level, though the program is also applicable to middle and secondary school instruction in reading.
  • The M.S. in Education with option in special education seeks to expand the professional knowledge of teachers in the education and development of exceptional, gifted, talented and disabled students in the standard classroom setting.
  • The M.S. in Music Education seeks to advance the student’s cultural, musical and professional development, as well as provide the graduate course work required to attain teaching certification in music.
  • The M.S. in Counselor Education with option in school counseling seeks to prepare candidates for counselor positions at the elementary, middle and secondary school levels. The M.S. in Counselor Education with option in clinical mental health counseling seeks to prepare students for careers as counselors in diverse community, agency and clinical mental health settings.


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