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Teaching the teachers

Trinity’s Angela Breidenstein finds joy in preparing the next generation of educators

By Susie P. Gonzalez

Linda Salvucci

Angela Breidenstein, associate professor of education

January 2011A funny thing happened to Angela Breidenstein on her way to law school. Like many Trinity University undergraduates, she got involved with a student volunteer group that took her off campus. While working with two troubled middle school students, she knew she’d found a passion that would lead her into education.  

Today, Breidenstein is an associate professor of education at Trinity, instructing undergraduates and graduates on the latest techniques in teaching, and she was chosen to be the first Faculty Marshal, a four-year commitment to mentor an entire class (she is working with the Class of 2012.) She also is a board member of the School Reform Initiative, a national program that creates transformational learning communities focused on educational equity and excellence.

“Teaching is a really complex job,” Breidenstein said, adding she finds great joy in equipping the teachers of tomorrow for the challenges they will face. Trinity’s teacher preparation program is nationally known for excellent programs and curriculum. “Our student interns and graduates in the classroom are at the leading edge of their craft.”

Breidenstein is on the ground at two San Antonio high schools, Lee and the International School of the Americas (ISA), where she can “try out” her ideas about student learning, teaching learning, and school reform. She seeks to cultivate teacher and professional learning communities that support the ongoing development of educators. Trinity’s program also focuses on individual and collective ways to buttress students after graduation. She is currently collaborating on a book that explores ways to support adult learning.

Linda Salvucci

Trinity education professor Angela Breidenstein, far right, is joined by Trinity students and Trinity education professor Jeff Nordine, far left, during a break at a national conference, the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum.

The two professional development schools where she is based are in the North East Independent School District, which Breidenstein credits with taking a leadership role in innovations. Leaders of ISA,  for example,  have introduced the concept of portfolio assessment, in which students look at and reflect on their performance annually and over a four-year period. “We ask, ‘How are you trying to implement and practice accountability?’ It is standards based, so you are teaching and working with the students to help them demonstrate learning and growth and give meaningful feedback,” she said.

Extending the concept, Breidenstein asks Trinity students in the five-year Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program to use a portfolio assessment in which they describe and analyze their learning. “I love it,” she said of the MAT program, because in most cases, she has a five-year opportunity to see students grow intellectually while fostering intensive and extensive relationships with people who will touch many student lives when they leave Trinity.  

She should know. Breidenstein is a product of Trinity’s MAT program, having been drawn in by an elective class on schools and communities after she met the two Mark Twain Middle School students who perplexed her. She already had enough hours to major in political science (as a pre-law student) and minor in German, but she took more education courses and was encouraged by longtime, now retired, education department chair John Moore to teach and then earn her doctorate and return to Trinity as a faculty member. Along the way, she also taught government and German at Lee and German at Jackson Middle School.

Even as the Class Marshal, she finds herself steeped in teaching. Rather than honing in on individual students, she is taking what she calls a “bird’s-eye view” of the student body from the Class of 2012. “It’s all about how to make the student experience engaging, and working with Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, we get to see what Trinity has to offer in and out of the classroom. Our work involves the campus and also the city.” That’s just like her role in the education department, which views the city as its campus.  

Courses Taught

Undergraduate Courses:

         Seminar:  School and Community
         Practicum:  The School
         Practicum:  The Master Teacher
         Practicum:  The Student
         Practicum and Field Seminar:  Grades 8-12
         Independent Study:  Problems in Education

Graduate Courses:

         Clinical Practice
         Advanced Clinical Practice
         Curriculum Inquiry and Practice                      
         Teaching Inquiry and Practice

Select Publications

Albright, S. and Breidenstein, A.  (2004, October 14).  School with a worldview.  Edutopia.

Breidenstein, A. (2002). Examining outcomes of four-year and extended teacher education
programs.  Teacher Education and Practice, 15(3), 12-43.

Breidenstein, A. (2001). Preparing teachers through professional development school
partnerships.  In J.O. Milner, R. Edelfelt, P. T. Wilbur (Eds.), Developing Teachers:  Fifth Year Programs for Outstanding Students (pp. 116-123).  Latham, MD:  University Press of America.

Working title of current book project:  Schools where adults learn: A guide for instructional leaders.

© 2010 Trinity University

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