Blog: Kathleen Tate

I Am a Humane Educator: Kathleen Tate, Training the Next Generation of Educators

by Institute for Humane Education

Blog: Kathleen Tate coverKathleen J. Tate, Ph.D., is a professor and program director of teaching programs at American Public University System (APUS). She is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Online Learning Research and Practice, formerly known as the Internet Learning journal, published by Policy Studies Organization and the American Public University System. Kathleen is a former special education teacher who taught at a bilingual Title I elementary school in Texas and has 22 years’ experience in the field of education.

Kathleen earned a B.A. in Soviet and East European Studies, with a minor in economics, M.Ed. in Special Education (concentration in Visual Impairments), and lifetime Texas teaching licenses in PK-12 special education, 1st – 8th theatre arts, and 1st-8th elementary education from the University of Texas at Austin.

At the University of Texas, she studied Russian, Polish, Czech, French, and Latin as an undergraduate and braille as a graduate student. She completed a Ph.D. in Elementary Education with Cognate Specializations in Teaching and Learning and Creative Language Arts for Diverse Learners at Florida State University.

We asked Kathleen to share about her work training a new generation of educators.

IHE: What has led you to embrace humane education?

KT: Due to my experiences across business, economics, languages, the arts, education/special education, etc., I gravitate toward an interdisciplinary, global perspective. As a professor, I wanted to contextualize lesson and unit planning for teacher education majors, so that they embed learning in experiences that are more purposeful for the K-12 students they teach in the field.

I had studied, researched, and applied Susan Kovalik’s Integrated Thematic Instruction (ITI) model throughout my years as an elementary special education teacher and professor. That model includes a responsible citizenship component.

I thought there might a larger framework beyond that, and after searching the web, I found the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) website. Its purposes, descriptions, and resources resonated with me. I liked the focus on all ages and focus on issues and solutions related to animals, environment, and humans.

I found the perfect frame for lesson and unit planning and incorporated humane education into classes, research, and writing.

IHE: You’ve created teacher-ed courses that integrate humane education, including a new course on Elementary School Arts Across the Curriculum. Tell us about some of the strategies you use to infuse humane education into these courses, and what challenges you face in doing so.

KT: The EDUC549 Elementary School Arts across the Curriculum course launched in 2014, and it includes painting, mixed media, ecology, environmental science, and humane education foci during the science-focused week. The course lesson for that week includes a brief introduction to humane education, two humane education articles, and a link to the IHE website.

The course is part of the M.Ed. Teaching – Elementary Education licensure program and the M.Ed. Teaching – STEAM (STEM + the Arts) concentration non-licensure program. I plan to expand humane education integration across graduate programs for teacher candidates and already-licensed teachers in the near future.

IHE: You’ve created a new course for undergraduates that wholly focuses on humane education. Tell us about that process and share some highlights of the course.

KT: EDUC200 Humane Education: A Global Interdisciplinary Perspective launched in March 2019. It focuses on integrating humane education across education, government, business, and community contexts, as a wide variety of majors may enroll in the course.

The process was lengthy to design it, as I needed to make sure literature, issues, and solutions are explored through arts, education, business, economics, geography, religion, politics, science, philosophy, and technology lenses, to name a few. The course constantly requires students to relate humane education to their current or future positions and develop interdisciplinary approaches accordingly.

My goal is to help students progress with a larger, interconnected perspective of local, national, and global resources, problems, and solutions. The assignments build upon one another, culminating with an action plan/solutionary plan.

IHE: And you’ve mentioned that the only required book for that course is IHE President Zoe Weil’s book, The World Becomes What We Teach. What made you choose that text?

KT: Zoe’s book is the only required print book for EDUC200. However, students are required to read and view weekly articles, online articles, videos, etc., along with the book. Though APUS has transitioned to nearly 100% Open Educational Resources (OERs) for undergraduate courses, her book was approved for the course, because it is the quintessential text on humane education.

I wanted to make sure students are exposed to the primary source for the field of humane education and have a foundation that is grounded in Zoe’s own words. A lot of Zoe’s online pieces and videos and IHE resources and blog articles are included as required materials as well.

IHE: What do you think is holding back more teacher-training programs from making humane education an integral part of the framework?

KT: I am not sure, but I do have some theories. First, I think that systemic change is needed. If professors went through school systems and then teacher education programs without exposure to humane education, how are they going to suddenly have awareness, knowledge, and applications for it? I believe that exposure, training, and support may be initiated in any context and at any point in time. However, this needs to start, and university administrators and decision makers need to be open to it. I am fortunate to have been affiliated with universities that have decision makers who support my efforts with humane education.

Second, I experienced initial resistance when I integrated humane education into courses over a decade ago. I had to adapt my approaches. I imagine that some professors may feel apprehension and even fear about trying to integrate some controversial topics into courses. I recommend trying, evaluating, and then adjusting.

Third, I think it was more challenging in the past to integrate humane education. I have noticed an increase in resources over recent years that makes it easier to find readings, news stories, business models, videos, examples, and more.

IHE: What are your plans for the future of humane education in your work?

KT: I plan to conduct more humane education research studies, integrate humane education more substantially and creatively across courses and programs (curriculum) I oversee, and continue to build my professional network.

I increasingly meet and connect with more humane educators over time and look forward to collaborative efforts and information sharing. I have not presented about humane education at any conferences yet, but plan to in the future. I am a children’s book author and am working to address human education topics in my second and third books through a science/STEM/STEAM lens.

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