California State University, Northridge has received at $250,000 gift to ensure that future teachers working with Armenian students have a strong foundation in understanding Armenian culture and language.
The TF Educational Foundation has pledged the money, to be paid over five years, for the creation of an annual scholarship to liberal studies students in CSUN’s Integrated Teacher Education Program (ITEP) who are also minoring in Armenian studies. The gift, the largest donation to CSUN’s Armenian studies program to date, also will provide support to existing teachers as they continue their education.
Armenian studies program director Vahram Shemmassian said the gift will help the university create one of the nation’s leading programs for students who would like to become teachers of Armenian language and culture.
“For the longest time, teachers serving the Armenian community came from elsewhere in the world, Middle Eastern countries like Syria, Lebanon and Iran or Armenia,” Shemmassian said. “Things are changing. With the large number of Armenians now living in the United States, there is a substantial pool of potential Armenian teachers and community leaders to prepare for the future.
“I am not aware of any program in the entire U.S. that is designed to prepare teachers for working with Armenian students — giving them a solid foundation in Armenian culture and language arts — while at the same time giving them the necessary tools to be successful educators in the classroom.”
Some estimates place the number of persons of Armenian descent in the Los Angeles area are as high as 500,000, with a large number residing in the San Fernando Valley. At CSUN, university officials estimate that 8 to 10 percent of the student body is of Armenian descent.
“The TF Educational Foundation’s generous gift creates new avenues of access for Armenian studies students, and will increase the quality and diversity of programming of teacher candidates,” said Elizabeth Say, dean of CSUN’s College of Humanities. “I see this gift reverberating through generations as our teachers graduate and enter the classroom.”
The Integrated Teacher Education Program provides a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies. These courses qualify students for a multiple-subject teaching credential, enabling them to teach grades K-8 in a self-contained classroom. This classroom structure is found in elementary schools and in core block subjects in some middle schools.
The addition of a minor in Armenian studies provides the added focus on Armenian culture and language arts curricula, giving the students special skill sets for working with Armenian children.
“Classes like ‘Armenian Culture,’ ‘The Armenian-American Child’ and ‘The Changing Roles of Armenian Women’ and other courses that cover ethnicity and diversity issues will give the students a solid understanding of the community they are going to serve, while at the same time they are taking courses that satisfy state standards for teachers,” said Ranita Chatterjee, English professor and director of CSUN’s liberal studies program.
Chatterjee noted ITEP students have had the option of adding minors in Chicana/o, Asian or Africana studies.
“The addition of Armenian studies is a tremendous boon, not only for teachers in the San Fernando Valley and in Los Angeles, but in terms of the program itself,” she said. “It provides even more options for students.”
The first students in the program are expected to enroll in fall 2016. The program will be housed in CSUN’s College of Humanities. For more information, contact CSUN’s Armenian studies program at (818) 677-3467.