Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) is widely known for producing ministers, but the university offers a wide range of degrees focused on service to the community. Many SAGU students are drawn to fields that offer social benefits, especially teacher education, which is one of the institution's most popular areas of study.
The teacher education program is the second-largest program in the university's College of Business and Education (CBE).
Many of SAGU's education majors, according to Sue Taylor, Dean of the CBE, choose this degree to invest in the next generation. Along with academics, one of the greatest privileges of an educator is teaching students how to engage the world around them and help them learn valuable life skills in the process.
"Students choose SAGU's teacher education program specifically because it is known as a faith-based program and is recognized at the state level and across the region for its outstanding quality in the undergraduate and graduate education programs. We prepare them to serve in public and faith-based classrooms and administrative offices across Texas, America, and around the world," said Taylor.
Hundreds of SAGU education graduates are serving in classrooms throughout Texas. Many of whom have advanced into administrative roles and become principals. In Waxahachie alone, five school principals are SAGU alumni with more throughout Ellis County and the state.
Several SAGU alumni serving as principals in Ellis County and the DFW Metroplex are listed below.
Tonya Harris - Waxahachie HS Interim Principal
Ryan Cavazos - Howard Junior High Principal
Karina White - Howard Junior High Asst. Principal
Karin Polk - Wilemon Elementary Asst. Principal
Lance Bray - Wedgeworth Elementary Asst. Principal
Asst. Principal. Daniel Fields. Ennis ISD
Dallas Horne - Fannin Elementary Principal
Justin James - McKinney ISD Asst. Principal
Renee Sena - Independence H.S., Frisco ISD Asst. Principal
Alisha Nicoloello - Harvest Christian Academy Asst. Principal
James Swearingen - Upper School Trinity Christian Principal
Michelle Rice - Janet Brenner Hoover Elementary School Principal
"We view teacher and administrator preparation as a collective endeavor that gives a solid foundation for our students to achieve their aspirations, be successful in their careers and make a difference in our rapidly changing society," Taylor said.
Every year the Texas Education Agency (TEA) asks first-year teachers to fill out a survey. One of the questions asked is how prepared they felt for their first year of teaching. Over 90 percent of those first-year teachers who graduated from SAGU answered that they felt prepared as a direct result of SAGU's educator prep program.
"That speaks loudly to me," said Khristy Strange, Interim Chair for the SAGU Education Department. "I work with some amazing professors who help prepare students for the mission field of education. It's a difficult job but ever so rewarding."
Alternative teacher certification
In order to prepare more teachers to serve locally, SAGU also launched an Alternative Teacher Certification Program (ACP) in 2018. This program provides a second option to individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree but want to change careers and become certified to teach.
One major benefit of this program is that students are eligible for financial aid. It also includes a yearlong internship in which candidates are actual first-year teachers receiving pay.
During the internship, candidates receive support from a university appointed field supervisor.
The most notable distinction of SAGU's alternative certification program is how it overlays with SAGU Harrison Graduate School. Rather than completing undergraduate credit, students earn 18 hours of credit toward a Master of Education (M.Ed.). All coursework is offered online, providing added convenience.
Redesigned education leadership and curriculum studies
In addition to the ACP, SAGU Teacher Education has continued to further develop its programs, including the recent redesign of the education leadership degree program for both public and Christian schools.
This program specifically focuses on the role of a principal as an instructional leader with a rigorous yet practical curriculum. Candidates must have a minimum of two years of classroom experience.
"Although most of our candidates are working towards the goal of becoming a principal, this degree is great for anyone who wants to be in leadership, such as a curriculum director, instructional coach, technology director, or want to eventually become a superintendent," said Strange.
The program is designed in such a way that class content builds from one to the next with nine pillars of focus, each complete with a specific culminating project. Candidates will be T-TESS certified before completion of the program.
SAGU teacher education also redesigned the Master of Education (M.Ed.) in curriculum development. This newly updated degree offers three specializations: early childhood, curriculum instruction and social studies.
"This is a great degree for those who want to know more about those content areas, want to be a curriculum director, or do not have two or more years of classroom experience."
Looking to the future
According to Strange, even bigger plans are on the horizon for SAGU's teacher education program. With continued growth and a faculty committed to personally investing in students, both Taylor and Strange are optimistic about the future of the program and the impact its graduates will have in both local and out-of-state schools.
"Our students learn from faculty who are not only recognized as experts in their fields but daily model their faith, compassion, and integrity," said Taylor.
To learn more about SAGU's Teacher Education degree programs, visit http://sagu.edu.