Joined USJ: 2008
Early childhood education is the foundation. That’s why its importance is underestimated at students’ peril, explains Barbara Hartigan, an ardent and dedicated educator. That occurs all too frequently, selling students short in ways that often don’t become evident until years later. Hartigan possesses uncommon first-hand experience across the education spectrum. The beneficiaries of her impressive background – as a primary and elementary public school teacher, private school middle and high school teacher, and an assistant principal and interim assistant superintendent – are USJ students. Having led classrooms, supervised teachers, and written curriculum, the importance of early childhood education was underscored at every turn. She conveys that message, and her enthusiasm, to USJ students seeking knowledge and guidance, sharing “what they can expect.”
A self-described “huge proponent of technology,” Hartigan has presented research at professional conferences on how Twitter can help beginning teachers, and the use of smartboards, ipads, and other technologies with young children to differentiate instruction. “Kids are learning to write and read more quickly due to technology; they are hands-on especially in early childhood. “You can’t hold any generation back,” she observes.
A music major before turning to education, she instinctively “looks for the genius in every child,” attuned to individual learning styles. “Ultimately, students construct their own knowledge,” explains Hartigan, an education constructivist throughout her career. “It’s not just a teacher pouring knowledge into an empty vessel.” It is the conceptual framework of USJ that attracted her to the institution – first as Director of Student Teaching, then as an Assistant Professor - where developing the best strategies to achieve academic success is at the core.
Hartigan strongly endorses today’s teacher preparation, where her students are co-teachers in local school classrooms, paired with current teachers where they can plan together, deliver lessons, and learn first-hand by doing as well as observing. The rigorous USJ curriculum, combined with a rich clinical experience, explains why district administrators tend to put USJ trained teacher applicants at the top of the pile. “We have high expectations,” she says, beginning with how every future teacher comports herself, reflecting the professionalism, openness and attentiveness that will help them advance and do well by their students. She is especially pleased that Connecticut has, of late, turned its attention to early childhood education. “There is pedagogy to it. This is what I teach. This is what I love. This is what I’m passionate about.”
Ed. D., University of Hartford
M.Ed., University of Mississippi
B.A., University of Mississippi