Ringstaff shares beliefs at Liberty
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Jul 18, 2013 | 976 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Martin Ringstaff
Martin Ringstaff
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Dr. Martin Ringstaff recently stepped out from behind the scenes as director of Cleveland City Schools to lead a weeklong, intensive course at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va.

Students and adjunct professors met for seven hours every day to carefully dissect the history and philosophy of education.

According to Ringstaff, he lives and breathes public education. The five-day intensive course provided an opportunity to challenge, instruct and encourage educators from various backgrounds.

“I love doing it because I stay on the cutting edge, for lack of a better analogy, of what is happening,” Ringstaff said. “I am interacting with teachers from across the country. I am hearing their own personal teaching philosophies.”

Liberty University requires every online student to take at least three intensive courses. Assignments prior to the class and after the class are assigned to prepare and test the students. Ringstaff said he received the notes, assignments and PowerPoint slides from Liberty professor Dr. Sam Smith.

All LU professors are given first choice of the intensive courses. Adjunct instructors are then sought to fill the remaining courses. Ringstaff received his doctorate through Liberty and has taught two intensives prior to the most recent. He said it took several weeks to prepare for the course.

Students described their philosophy of education on the first day of class. One group drew a big bird, as the school, and a small bird, as the student. Another explained their teaching philosophy as a subway system with interconnecting tunnels.

Lectures focused on various philosophers from Aristotle, Socrates and Plato’s ancient days to the present. Christian influences were also present in the teaching as Liberty is a private, Christian-based institution. The 22 students were often divided into groups. Ringstaff said he would give them a topic and ask them to discuss the matter among themselves. They debated the effects and merits of sweeping education changes felt by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

“We do switch gears a lot. It is really about their issues and their philosophies,” Ringstaff said. “It is not 40 hours of me talking to them.”

Classroom topics and assignments shifted from day to day. At one point, the students were grouped to represent a type of charter school based on either realism or neoscholasticism. Teams were assigned by Ringstaff. They were expected to fight for their school regardless of their personal opinion.

Ringstaff said he loves going to Liberty to interact with the students and campus while discussing philosophies and sharing his knowledge.

“I am a practitioner. I live and breathe public school every day and I am a firm believer of the public school way of life,” Ringstaff said. “My perspective will be different from a professor on campus.”

Students worked into the night after each class. Ringstaff spent his evenings grading the essays and assignments completed in the class. He said it was interesting to see how the students’ philosophy of teaching changed over the five days. Material studied in the course challenges the students to re-evaluate their previous assessments.

Ringstaff originally began his career in education at the front of a classroom. The director of city schools once taught biology and environmental science to classrooms of high school students. He said it is hard to compare the two groups of students.

For one thing, the time constraints are different. Ringstaff taught the graduate students for five days whereas teaching high school was a much longer commitment. Graduate students are also often paying for their education out of their own pockets. High school students are required to attend their classes and may or may not pay attention. Regardless of the differences, Ringstaff said he has enjoyed teaching both.

He especially enjoyed the opportunity to be back on Liberty’s campus.

“Anytime I am on campus, I come away refreshed with a very good perspective of where education is going,” Ringstaff said. “I really believe all colleges are doing their very best to prepare teachers. I love the optimism you see in a teacher’s face. I don’t get a lot of negative people. I get a lot of energy.”