The Changing Face of Education

09/03/2009  |  NICOLE GUIDARA
continuing education

The best place to look at how the world around us is changing is in a classroom. In this small space, we can often see the large effects of economic conditions, technological advances, and the diverse make-up of our population. Unfortunately, many teachers are outpaced by these developments and are not equipped with resources to deal with the challenges they present.

This influx of changes in the classroom threaten teachers’ ability to reach students in the most effective way. Perhaps nowhere is this change more evident than in the evolution of technology over the last decade. Not so long ago, we were astounded by the advent of the “World Wide Web” . Today, students speak to their family and friends through text messages, Twitter and Facebook, when just 10 years ago access to computers and mobile phones were determined by socioeconomic standing. Now computers in the school are more commonplace, and have become a necessary teaching and learning tool to keep our students competitive both locally and globally.

And if the technological changes aren’t enough of a challenge, the language barrier may be.  According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), English Language Learner (ELL) services were provided to 3.8 million students in the U.S. (11 percent of all students) during the 2003-04 school year.  And through it all, classroom size continues to grow.  The NCES projects elementary and secondary education enrollments to increase each year through 2018 to an all-time high of 54 million. With scarcer resources and more students, teachers need to master new techniques to be able to provide the best education for all of their students.

It is crucial for teachers to continue their own education in order to educate others to the best of their abilities; propelling the “learn to teach” concept. We must accept, however, that we all share the responsibility to help our teachers succeed in their quest for educating our youth in the most effective way possible. However, we recognize that for many teachers, continuing their education is a costly task. Professional development requirements and advanced degrees are necessary to maintain licenses and reach higher pay grades; yet most often the cost of such advancement is an expense the teacher must assume.

Programs such as Learn Return — a partnership between Liberty Mutual Insurance and Pearson Education — offer benefits that help teachers grow outside the classroom so that they can advance professionally and financially. These include discounts on professional development courses that help equip teachers with today’s best knowledge to meet new challenges and keep pace with the changing classroom. Additionally, teacher’s seeking a more complete degree program can apply for a Learn Return scholarship.

In 2008, Liberty Mutual awarded 13 Learn Return scholarships to teachers across the nation who demonstrated exceptional passion and responsibility for their own continued education to benefit their students. Each winner earned a fully funded Master’s degree program from one of Pearson’s accredited university partners, an average $15,000 burden that these teachers now need not shoulder.

Both the course discounts and scholarship applications are available online at

Teachers like David Kirkland, a 2008 Learn Return scholarship winner from Columbus, Ga., and kindergarten teacher at Davis Elementary School, agree that the changing face of the classroom is a challenge that educators must meet head-on. “With technology playing a larger and larger role in our lives, we as teachers must adapt,” he says. “The education field is vast and covers many different jobs and skills. Our jobs should evolve to meet these challenges on a daily basis.”

Echoing David’s sentiment, Teresa Castellaw, a language arts teacher at Wittenburg Elementary School in Taylorsville, N.C., and another 2008 Learn Return scholarship winner said, “[A Master’s] degree would be one step in keeping my students in a 21st century classroom and on the forefront of new technology as it becomes available.  It is so important to me to make sure my students have every opportunity to achieve their utmost potential.”

If teachers truly do lead by example, then David Kirkland and Teresa Castellaw set the bar for all teachers and demonstrate how continuing your education is the key to excelling in the classroom, even when the classroom changes.

Nicole Guidara is the director of marketing at Liberty Mutual. For more information about the Liberty Mutual Learn Return program visit
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