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Educator helps teachers develop survival skills

October 22, 2001|By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

Pat Cook has done it all in education as teacher and administrator, working in jobs ranging from kindergarten to high school.

She even retired once — for three months. Then San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus asked her to supervise student teachers and evaluate the student teachers once a week. Now she directs the SDSU-IV intern program for new teachers, one of the most successful programs in California.

"It is a support program for teachers simultaneously working and finishing their teaching education program," Cook said. "My mantra is to support new teachers to become as effective as they can as soon as they can. That way you can develop a passion for the profession. You can't develop that passion until you are effective."

Cook gives new teachers survival skills to help with classroom management. She started with 44 new teachers spread across the county. This year she supervises 90 teachers in addition to teaching two classes for new teachers.


"It is so rewarding because they are so needy," she said. "They are like sponges. Principals don't have time for them. A principal makes 200 split-second decisions a day.

"We are losing teachers in droves because no one has time to give them the support they need. Teachers are now asked to do so many things, many things that parents used to do. Parents used to send the kids to school with good moral values and character. The societal problems are now thrust upon the shoulders of the teachers."

As a beginning teacher Cook benefited from working with some excellent teachers and principals. The late Jane Ikenberry, principal of the former Ruth Reed School in Brawley, stands out as one. A very "hands-on" type, Ikenberry walked into her class one day as Cook was teaching penmanship.

"She didn't like the way I was teaching penmanship and proceeded to implement the lesson," Cook said. "She took the chalk out of my hand in front of the class. … She taught me so much about teaching."

In the 1960s Ikenberry sent Cook home to change her clothes. She told her her skirt was too short.

"Everything was very structured. That is why I feel standards are so important now. When I was a principal I would give teachers their books and told them to go and do it, even new teachers," Cook said. "The textbooks were the curriculum. It was sink or swim. It is so much better now. They now have specifics they have to teach. They have built-in guidelines with which to collaborate with their peers."

Never one to shy from responsibilities, as principal at Calipatria High School Cook took care of all state and federal projects, served as assistant superintendent and traveled with the school's basketball team.

Nancy Johnson, coordinator of the pre-intern teaching program with the county Office of Education, works closely with Cook.

"She has done a whole lot for all the teacher education students attending SDSU," Johnson said. "I know she goes to bat for them whenever they need extra help. She is wonderful to work with. All the students who are in contact with her say she is the reason they are teaching. She makes the profession fun for them."

Cook and her husband, Mike, have three daughters and five grandchildren. Mike Cook is a farmer and real estate broker.

"I have been in this profession 35 years and I know it is the most important profession, turning kids on to reading and seeing the value of education and wanting them to go on," Cook said. "You have to support kids as they are discovering. It is a nurturing profession."

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