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Former Urban School Superintendent
Returns to School of Ed
September 13, 1999
It's taken 34 years to get here, but George Drumm is exactly where he wants to be - back at UConn. Drumm is the new director of teacher education at the Neag School of Education.
"These jobs don't come along every day. It's more than I had hoped for - to direct a program with a national reputation and highly valued by school districts around the state," he says.
In this newly created position, Drumm is coordinating the integrated bachelor's/master's student teacher program and overseeing the program's newly formed policy board. Hiring a director for the program became necessary because of its growth in size and in national recognition, says Richard Schwab, dean of the Neag School.
"George was an ideal candidate for the job," Schwab says. "He has unique skills. He's a well respected practitioner, holds a doctorate in education, and understands the broad-based needs of our teacher education program."
The integrated bachelor's/master's is a five-year program. Graduates leave with two degrees and a teaching certificate in hand and, usually, a job. "Our students are very marketable," Drumm says. "I know from experience as a superintendent and principal that schools want teachers who've graduated from the UConn program."
He also knows how well the program works for student teachers. His daughter, now a third grade teacher in Glastonbury, is a graduate. "I saw as a parent and an educator how she grew under the program," he says.
Drumm began his education career teaching in Hartford public schools. "I wanted to be a teacher at a relatively young age. I think it came out of coaching Little League and recreation programs. It felt natural to go on to a teaching career."
Along the way he has held a variety of positions. At UConn he earned his doctorate, and for seven years was co-director of the University's Center for Open Education. During that time, he worked in the classrooms of several school districts to develop programs of instruction. Drumm also served as principal in Plymouth and East Hartford schools, and most recently finished a three-year stint as superintendent of schools in East Hartford.
He says what he'll miss most from his superintendency is the day-to-day action of having to juggle so many responsibilities and facets of the job. But his favorite job, without a doubt, was that of elementary school principal. "It kept me actively involved with students as well as involved in curriculum development," he says.
Now Drumm is actively involved with students who want to become teachers. Among his other responsibilities, he is teaching a class and spends one day a week in Tolland's public schools overseeing the UConn students who are interning or student teaching there.
Beginning in their junior year, UConn's teachers of the future spend a portion of each week in a school setting. By the time they graduate, they will have more classroom experience than graduates of many other teaching programs. But most important, says Drumm, "They will have been exposed to teaching in three different classroom settings: urban, suburban and rural. That sampling of settings enables them to make an informed decision about the type of school in which they'd like to teach."
But although student teaching is critical to their training, Drumm has some very definite ideas about a teacher's personality and why that is just as critical to his or her success.
"I look for intelligence combined with enthusiasm, commitment to the job, and an ability to develop a rapport with students," he says. "If teachers lack the ability to connect with kids, they're not going to be successful. That connection is what separates great teachers from mediocre ones."
Drumm ought to know. He has worked closely with hundreds of teachers during the past 34 years. And now, it's his job to see that the teacher education program continues to deliver teachers who live up to UConn's reputation.