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Meeting of the Board of Regents | October 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 9:15am

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Signature of Joe FreyHigher Education Committee


Joseph P. Frey



Cultural Institutions’ Role in Teacher Preparation


October 13, 2009


Goals 1, 2 and 3






Issue for Discussion

There will be a panel discussion among key members of the USNY cultural education community concerning the role of cultural institutions in the preparation of teachers – including by alternative pathways.


Reason(s) for Consideration


Review of Policy


Background Information

The panel members include:


  • Dr. Maritza Macdonald, Director of Education Policy for the American Museum of Natural History
  • Ms. Sonnet Takahisa, Director of Education at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum
  • Dr. Ronald Thorpe, Vice President and Director of Education at, the parent company of 13/WNET and WLIW21
  • John S. Weber, Dayton Director of the Francis Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College


A short bio of each of the panelists is attached to this report.


The discussion will begin with a short video presentation of Teacher TV by Dr. Ron Thorpe. Teacher TV is a program from England that supports the professional development of teachers to widen their skills, develop their practice and connect them to other professionals in the field. Teacher TV uses videos, practical resources and online community to engage teachers.

The panel will then address how cultural institutions can support the preparation of new teachers, especially in shortage areas and in high need schools. Also, can there be a model where cultural institutions fully prepare teachers?



Maritza Macdonald

Dr. Maritza B. Macdonald is the Director of Education and Policy for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) since 1997.  Dr. Macdonald ‘s major responsibilities include research as co-principal investigator on a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to develop science museum education supports for English Language Learners (ELL) middle school students.  Dr. Macdonald is also responsible for conducting in-house and managing external evaluation contractors that evaluate museum educational impacts to develop appropriate policies, funding, and research that increase informal and academic understanding of science and culture.

She was the principal investigator of a National Science Foundation (NSF) teacher renewal partnership between AMNH and two City University of New York (CUNY) colleges (TRUST), from 2004 to 2008. This project developed and institutionalized a formal-informal collaborative prototype of science teacher preparation for urban settings.  [Macdonald, Sloan, Miele, Powell, et al, Improving urban Earth science education: The TRUST Model, Journal of Geoscience Education, (MAY, 2008)]

Dr. Macdonald is a member of the National Commission on 21st Century STEM Education, National Science Board, Washington, D. C. and the Regents Work Group on Urban Education.  She has participated at the policy level on National Commissions and is a member of the Teachers for a New Era and Exemplary Teacher Education Research at NCREST, a higher education and research initiative.  Dr. Macdonald is also involved with city-wide initiatives such as the Goldman Sachs Teacher Quality project and the Urban Advantage program.

Dr. Macdonald has a Doctorate of Education Degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, a Master of Science Degree from Bank Street College of Education, and a Bachelor of Science Degree from Fordham University.

Sonnet Takahisa

Sonnet Takahisa is currently the Director of Education, at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.  As Director of Education, Ms. Takahisa oversees the interpretation of the Memorial Museum’s collections and exhibitions, and engages diverse audiences through the development, implementation and promotion of educational programming at the Museum.  For the last five years, she has served as the coordinator of the Museum-School Partnership Learning Network, a professional development opportunity for New York state educators from both domains to explore ways to improve student success.  From 2003 - 2006, she was a Senior Program Officer and a Consultant for Arts and Cultural Partnerships at New Visions for Public Schools, involved in creating and supporting 120 new small high schools. For 10 years she was Founding Co-Director of The NYC Museum School, a public school with 410 6-12th grade students from a range of socio-economic and academic backgrounds. Designed on the premise that museums represent an academic tradition of excellence, intellectual rigor and high standards, and that they provide a model of learning that is engaging and passionate, NYCMS students took full advantage of the wealth of resources in their partner museums (Brooklyn Museum, Children's Museum of Manhattan, American Museum of Natural History, and South Street Seaport Museum) and cultural institutions throughout the city.  Ms. Takahisa has over 30 years of experience in museums and schools; she has served on numerous review panels, task forces, boards, and as a consultant to museums, arts organizations, schools, and afterschool programs. She worked as an educator at the Boston Children’s Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and Brooklyn Museum.

Ronald Thorpe

Dr. Ronald Thorpe is the Vice President and Director of Education at WNET.ORG, the parent company of Thirteen/WNET and WLIW21.  Since 2003, he has overseen the work of a 25-person department supporting all of Thirteen's national PBS productions and finding new ways to meet its mission of providing high quality, video-based materials for New York State teachers, students, and parents.  He was the principal investigator for Thirteen's federal Ready to Teach grant that created VITAL (Video in Teaching and Learning), now with more than 30,000 registered K-12 teachers in New York State, and is the creator of the Celebration of Teaching & Learning, one of the nation's premier K-12 professional development conferences.  That annual event -- always held in New York City -- attracted more than 8,500 teachers, administrators, and policy makers from all 50 states in March 2009.  Currently he is the driving force behind the creation of Teachers TV-USA, a 24/7 channel and broadband service dedicated to professional development of the K-12 workforce, modeled after an initiative already working at scale in England.

Prior to joining WNET.ORG, Dr. Thorpe spent 12 years working for three different foundations, and earlier spent 16 years as a teacher and administrator.  The author of many articles, chapters, and essays, he also is the editor of THE FIRST YEAR AS PRINCIPAL (Heinemann, 1995).

He is a graduate of Harvard College, where he majored in Classics, and earned both his masters and doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he wrote his dissertation on professional development of teachers.

John Weber

John S. Weber is the Dayton Director of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, an interdisciplinary museum opened in 2000 to create links between contemporary art and other disciplines as part of the teaching effort at Skidmore. As director of the museum he supervises the Tang's staff and oversees exhibitions, programs, collections, and the Tang website, as well as curating and writing for museum publications. His exhibition credits at the Tang include Molecules That Matter, co-curated with Professor Raymond Giguere, an interdisciplinary examination of ten molecules that altered life in the 20th century, including nylon, aspirin, polyethylene, DDT, and DNA, and And Therefore I Am, an exhibition of contemporary art that explores thought and consciousness.  Weber is also a member of the Skidmore faculty and teaches in the art history program.


Before coming to Skidmore in 2004, he was the curator of education and public programs at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 1993 to 2004. While at SFMOMA he founded the museum's nationally recognized interactive educational technologies program, spearheaded the design of the museum’s Koret Education Center, and co-curated a number of major exhibitions, including 010101, Art in Technological Times. From 1987 to 1993 Weber served as curator of contemporary art at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. He has taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels at Mills College, San Francisco Art Institute, University of Washington, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art.  He holds a B.A. from Reed College, 1978, and M.F.A. in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego, 1984.