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Health and PE teacher education program moving to Gainesville Campus

Health and PE teacher education
UNG's health and physical education (HPE) teacher education program is moving to UNG's Gainesville Campus in spring 2019.

The University of North Georgia's (UNG) health and physical education (HPE) teacher education program is moving to UNG's Gainesville Campus in spring 2019.

Future cohorts will spend a minimum of two semesters on the Gainesville Campus before finishing off their degree with a semester of student teaching.

Warren Caputo, assistant professor of kinesiology who will lead the accredited program, said the move will help student retention because many live closer to the Gainesville Campus.

He expects the Bachelor of Science in kinesiology with a concentration in teacher certification program to form stronger partnerships in Hall and Gwinnett counties. Plus, the number of field experience sites to place teacher candidates for student teaching and internships will increase. Gwinnett has about 180,000 students in its school system, while Hall County has almost 27,000 and Gainesville has about 8,000.

"We felt that we could serve our students better from this campus," Caputo said.

Daniel Ramirez, a junior who has been accepted into the program for spring 2019, is one of those students. The teacher candidate from Winder, Georgia, said having his major offered on the Gainesville Campus instead of Dahlonega was a major draw.

"I can finish it out here," Ramirez said. "It's a huge relief."

Caputo said more than half of the Gainesville-based teacher candidates starting the cohort in January 2018 were matriculating there previously for their core kinesiology classes.

In addition to the move, the teaching faculty are making other changes to the program. They are planning to provide health and physical education teacher candidates with a better balance of HPE knowledge, teaching skills, and practical experience.

To accomplish these goals, the program will see an increase in the number of HPE content courses and a diversification of field experiences and internships to facilitate direct interaction with elementary school-level students and children and adolescents, of all ages, with special needs. This will occur without sacrificing the current experiences at the middle and high school levels.

Additionally, Caputo has developed a trip for the candidates to attend and present at the Share the Wealth Education Conference in January 2019. 

Ramirez appreciates those efforts.

"It's a good idea for us to be well-rounded students and future educators," Ramirez said. "I'm going to be prepared."

Brook Shurley, a faculty member in the program, said traditionally teacher candidates have passively observed someone else instructing students with special needs or volunteered in support-only roles at events like local Special Olympics. Shurley said the new approach will allow teacher candidates one-on-one interactions with the students.

"As physical educators, we need to be able to modify our activities to include all students," Shurley said. "It's going to be a great experience for our candidates to have that training."

Sarah Nudelman, a senior who will be one of the final teacher candidates to finish the degree on the Dahlonega Campus, said the extra experience will help UNG teacher candidates. She said it's a whole different dynamic because elementary students are often learning certain physical education concepts for the first time.

"If we had more time learning how to teach those basic skills, it would help us a little bit more," Nudelman said.

By taking many of the same courses as pre-physical therapy students and adding the teaching courses, Nudelman said, "I feel like I'm prepared in several different ways."

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