Shaker accepts education challenge

Sep 04, 2003, vol. 28, no. 1
By Carol Thorbes

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U. S. born and bred Paul Shaker (right) is not easily shaken by controversy in a challenging educational climate.

Simon Fraser University's new dean of education will be at home shepherding his flock of scholars through B.C.'s turbulent times in education.

“My career has tended toward educational leadership and advocacy,” says Shaker who was raised in a northeastern Ohio steel town and earned his BA, master's and doctoral degrees at Ohio State University. “I have worked to influence political process, media and our professional organizations in education for the purpose of strengthening public education.”

The author of numerous publications on educational public policy is still getting the lay of the land in B.C. “As I study the context here and meet people, I am sure a set of priorities will emerge that direct my activity,” says Shaker.

His dedication to making all levels of public education accessible to minority and disadvantaged groups and his collaborative style left an imprint on education at several U. S. post-secondary institutions.

Most recently, as the dean of California State university's Kremen school of education, Shaker helped forge 70 collaborative projects with local public school districts.

They used family counselling, an emphasis on science and math education, literacy and other supports to help students succeed in Fresno County, an area with high immigrant populations, child poverty and unemployment.

“My emphasis is to help those in most need and to support the development of healthy communities for our children and youth,” explains Shaker. “I am an advocate for community schools, which means the provision of a family of social services in each school neighbourhood so that the educative function of the school occurs in a supportive context for children.”

Under Shaker's deanship, the Kremen school of education has aggressively recruited teachers and attracted students from minority ethnic communities.

People from minority groups comprise 40 per cent of the school's population and 30 per cent of its faculty.

A proponent of the internet as a tool for making education more accessible, Shaker helped launch CalStateTEACH - a web-based, distributed learning, teacher education program.

The initiative, among others, reduced bottlenecks in admissions and sparked a 60 per cent jump in program registrations.

Shaker is as concerned with making post secondary education efficient and concise as he is with making it accessible.

He was the architect of one of California's first four-year programs for teacher preparation, after 30 years of mandatory five-year curricula.

As comfortable working a room full of potential donors as he is sitting behind a desk, Shaker fundraised millions of dollars for Kremen.

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