Ouachita’s education program among top in Arkansas, gives scriptural focus to “the master teacher”

By Ben Sells, Ph.D.

President, Ouachita Baptist University

When visiting with prospective students and their parents about Ouachita, I conclude with two statements. First, we want God’s best for you, wherever that may be. Second, study and compare the data of universities.

With all the current discussion about K-12 schools, here’s some recent evidence about the quality of Ouachita’s teacher education program, including their faculty’s focus on Jesus as the master teacher as they prepare the next generation of teachers.

Arkansas recently released its Education Preparation Provider Quality Ratings on 26 teacher education-related programs in the state. You will be encouraged about the evidence for Ouachita’s program, which had 151 majors last year and grew 25% over the last two years.

  • In ratings provided by supervisors of new public school teachers, Ouachita was ranked second (two-tenths of a point from first).
  • In ratings provided by the new teachers about their preparation, Ouachita was second (one-tenth of a point from first).
  • Ouachita was one of only five programs with a 100% pass rate on the required Praxis test – it demonstrates knowledge of content, pedagogy and instructional skills for the classroom.

The excellence is a compliment to our students and their parents – their first teachers – but also to our teacher education program that includes faculty members Kathy Collins, Rachel Pool, Carrie Sharp and Sue Shults; staff member Genie Ashcraft; and Dean Jeff Root. What’s more, these faculty teach Ouachita students to recognize their work – teaching – as a ministry.

Dr. Rachel Pool, a native of West Memphis, began studying about Jesus as the master teacher when she was a Ouachita student. After graduating in 2007 and teaching public school for four years, she returned to her alma mater in 2011. She is passionate and inspiring, and students voted her as Ouachita’s Most Inspirational Professor in 2018. Like her colleagues in the Huckabee School of Education, she has continued to focus on Jesus as the master teacher, and it infuses her work with Ouachita students.

I’ve heard Dr. Pool speak about this focus, and I recently read her Ouachita senior thesis from 2007 on the topic. She found that Jesus is referred to as “teacher” 45 times in the Bible. In studying the life of Jesus, she described 19 characteristics He exemplified as a master teacher.

For example, she concluded that Jesus makes “content comprehensible to students” and illustrates how Jesus did this during the Sermon on the Mount. She wrote, “Jesus explained lessons clearly by providing the ‘whys’ behind each statement. His audience was able to grasp the cause-and-effect relationships His message described, giving it meaning, significance and comprehension.”

Dr. Pool also brings her research into the Foundations of Education course, in her words, to “share my passion of helping students learn about the pedagogy, management and methods of Jesus, the master teacher.”

This is a central theme embraced by Ouachita’s entire education faculty; these are the kind of people we want preparing future teachers.

For the sake of the university mission and for our children, we believe it’s essential that Ouachita graduates are excellent K-12 teachers. And there is real and encouraging evidence from the state of Arkansas that they in fact are. But, it’s more than data in university-to-university comparison.

Dr. Pool and her colleagues exemplify that, as a Christian college – especially when it comes to preparing teachers – we can and should learn from the master teacher, because it is through Him that students are truly transformed. And, Arkansas Baptists, you are helping make this possible with your support.

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