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Elementary Education Program Completes Second of Three Accreditation Steps

Laurene ZieglerHANCOCK, MI - Finlandia University is pleased to announce that the university's Elementary Education program has completed the second of three steps leading to full program accreditation by receiving probationary approval from the Michigan State Board of Education.

"This is a major step forward for the program and, most importantly, for our students," said Judith Budd, dean of Finlandia's Suomi College of Arts & Sciences. "For the last six years, Finlandia faculty members have worked tirelessly to move this program forward toward accreditation."

"This important step allows us to directly grant the bachelor of arts in elementary education to our graduates," added Budd. "Until now Concordia University, our mentor institution, has conferred the elementary education degree on our behalf."

"It's a major stepping stone in the history of our program, and perhaps the biggest hurdle the program has crossed," confirmed Laurene Ziegler, chair of the Elementary Education program since fall 2000.

"The first two steps in the accreditation process have made our program much stronger," Ziegler said. "Moreover, probationary approval bolsters our image and credibility within the educational community."

Ziegler says probationary approval comes with more responsibility, and allows the Elementary Education program to operate independently. Among other things, Finlandia now has the privilege of recommending our graduates for Michigan Department of Education certification."

Finlandia's Elementary Education K-8 teacher training program was established in the fall of 2001, and the process to gain Michigan Department of Education accreditation was begun earlier the same year.

Elementary Education program majors select two minor courses of study which include English, math, social studies, and science.

To date, 63 have graduated from Finlandia's Elementary Education program, beginning with the Class of 2003. The program boasts a 93% overall passing rate on the Michigan teacher certification test.

Currently, 31 Elementary Education program alumni are employed in the Upper Peninsula as teachers or in related positions, such as AmeriCorps. Fourteen of the graduates are employed as teachers in other states, from downstate Michigan and Minnesota, to Arizona, Wyoming, and Alaska. Two alumni have gone on to complete master's degrees in education, and three others are currently pursuing advanced degrees.

Ziegler keeps close track of her graduates and they, in turn, stay connected with Finlandia. For example, 2008 graduate Ryan Koski began teaching sixth grade in Bullhead, Ariz., in fall 2008.  Each year the students in his class create a video dialogue to share with current Finlandia Elementary Education majors, who in turn create a video for the Arizona sixth graders.

Of course, the program could not have accomplished the first two state accreditation steps alone. "President Johnson has been very supportive of the program, especially in regard to our technology needs," Ziegler explained. "One year after he became Finlandia's president, we had the technology classroom we needed to move forward in the accreditation process."

Further, Ziegler said the ongoing support of local public schools as student teaching sites is critical to the sustained success of both the Elementary Education program and the program's graduates. She added that the CCISD also invites student teachers to participate in the district's professional development activities.

Finlandia will be eligible to apply for full state of Michigan accreditation in three years. Upon final approval, Finlandia must pursue and gain national accreditation within five years through one of two national accrediting bodies.

For additional information, please contact Laurene Ziegler at 906-487-7351.

Photo cutline:  Laurene Ziegler, chair of the Finlandia University Elementary Education Program