CalTeach Master Teacher
School of Education
August 1, 2009
Educator’s Depth of Experience and Academic Commitment Benefit CFEP, DoE, and Southern California Educators
As an English Learner, Dr. Terry Shanahan grew up in a French Canadian neighborhood in New Hampshire. Everyone she knew was French Canadian; they shopped at the French Canadian market and did their banking at the French Canadian bank; they spoke Quebecois at home. As a student, she was fortunate enough to have attended a Catholic private school where she was educated in a dual immersion program so that she is biliterate and bilingual.
“Our students in southern California are not so fortunate,” Terry says. “They often come to our schools without literacy in their home language and are too quickly graduated from English Learner programs so that they attend mainstream classes in content they often do not understand.”
Terry’s research interest in English Learners was slow to develop, though. As a first generation college student, she received her BA degree in Chemistry with a math minor from Rivier College in Nashua, New Hampshire. After teaching middle school math at a private school in Goffstown, New Hampshire for four years, she taught all levels of math from Foundational Math to Calculus at a regional high school for three years (her husband was the Chemistry teacher so she taught math).
When her husband changed his career and found a job in California, Terry found a new home. She taught high school Chemistry and Physics at Los Amigos High School in the Garden Grove Unified School District. She served as department chair at Los Amigos and as a science mentor in the district. During this time, she earned the Outstanding High School Chemistry Teacher Award, voted by UCI science undergraduates to honor their former high school teacher.
While she was teaching full-time at Los Amigos, Terry joined the team that developed the statewide large scale, end-of-course Golden State Examinations (GSE) in Biology, Chemistry and Coordinated Science. This assessment included multiple choice items (that were machine scored); and open ended questions and a performance task (that were all scored by teams of teachers each summer). Her official role on the committee was to serve as the chair of the Chemistry team and later, the Coordinated Science team. Her unofficial role was to ensure that the assessment questions were comprehensible to English Learners. After two years, she facilitated the portfolio assessment that became part of the GSE. As she scored the GSE student responses each summer, she became aware of how English Learners struggled to respond to prompts that involved communicating ideas in English.
After seven years at Los Amigos, she moved to teach Chemistry and Physics in the SSC program at Millikan High School in Long Beach. While there, she earned her MAT in Science Education from Cal State Fullerton where her thesis examined the effects of portfolio assessment on the achievement of English Learners. Her study found that English Learners were able to show understanding of science concepts if given support and enough time to revisit their learning.
From 1991 to the present, Terry provided professional development to inservice teachers through the summer science institutes of the California Science Project at UC Irvine. Terry also presented lessons at national and state science conferences. In 1999 she became one of the Co-Directors of the Science Project, and in 2000 she left the classroom to become a Site Director. Part of her responsibilities as Site Director included providing professional development to elementary teachers through the California Professional Development Institute grant called Learn English Through Science (LETS). With the premise that English Learners learn language in context, this four-year program provided public school inservice teachers in grades K – 5 with science lessons that were embedded with language arts and English Learner strategies. The lessons also incorporated creative arts. This was a special time for Terry as she worked closely with a talented elementary teacher who helped her see how important art and music are for elementary English Learners. As a result of this experience, Terry has written several songs about science concepts, ranging from magnets to physical change to flowers and soil.
In 2000, as part of the Center for Educational Partnerships and a Lecturer in the School of Physical Sciences, Terry co-taught the PS/ED 114 fieldwork experience course to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) undergraduates encouraging them to think of teaching as a possible career opportunity. Eventually, this course morphed into the present day Cal Teach 1 and 2 courses that Terry continues to co-teach as a Lecturer in the Department of Education.
In 2002 the Center for Educational Partnerships received a National Science Foundation grant, Faculty Outreach Collaboratives Uniting Scientists, Schools, and Students (FOCUS!), and Terry became the Elementary Science Co-Director of the Teacher Leader Cadre where, as one of the Teacher Leader Directors, she helped to develop a regional network of professional development providers who teach math and science lessons to public school teachers of PreK to grade 12 students. Through this work, Terry became interested in supporting PreK teachers as they purposefully teach the whole child with integration of science, math, and language arts through play.
During the FOCUS! work, Terry co-authored two papers that studied the effects of professional development in mathematics on the classroom teaching of K – 8 teachers in a local high need school district. With the senior evaluator at the Center for Educational Partnerships, she also recently made two presentations at research conferences about the regional network of professional development providers, expanding on the definitions of professional learning communities proposed by Dufour and Wenger.
While working full-time as a professional development provider and Lecturer, in 2006 Terry earned her doctoral degree in Learning and Instruction with a Science Education emphasis from the University of Southern California. As a Trojan, Terry proudly wears her cardinal and gold. Her doctoral dissertation investigated the effects of test accommodations on urban fifth-grade English Learners’ achievement in science. Terry’s study found that supports such as visuals and graphic organizers benefited those students with high language development levels who knew to access the information that these support systems provided. Students with lower language development levels did not use these supports and achieved lower scores than their peers. It turns out that large scale assessments in science often are tests of language, not content, the study showed.
Although Terry earned her doctoral degree to deepen her understanding of teaching and learning, she represents the Department of Education as Lead Researcher on several grants. In this capacity, she is fortunate to work closely with Lauren M. Shea, a second-year PhD student in the Department of Education. Lauren and Terry have been studying the effects of professional development work that incorporates intentional use of student talk in science and math lessons. They plan to present the findings of their study at a national conference next spring.
Lauren and Terry’s collaboration bodes well for future such efforts between professional developers at the Center for Educational Partnerships and the researchers and graduate students at the Department of Education.
Terry is proud to be part of both.