Written by Mary Welch Thursday, October 07 2010
Snapshot: Beth Farokhi
Beth Farokhi has more than 30 years experience in education including 24 years in the College of Education at Georgia State University. She was recently appointed interim head of The Galloway School, a private school – preschool through 12th grade – in Atlanta.
In 2004, Farokhi created the Georgia State University Leadership Academy for Women, a yearlong professional development program. She was co-principal investigator for the Integrating Gender Equity and Reform grant, a National Science Foundation collaborative with five Georgia higher education campuses.
Prior to her work at Georgia State, Farokhi spent six years as a public school teacher. She holds a master’s from Emory University and a doctorate in higher education from the University of Georgia.
Womenetics: You have been an educator all your life. If you could make one change in our school system, what would it be?
Beth Farokhi: It would be reduction of the emphasis on the testing, which prevents teachers from teaching and students from learning. We need to refocus learning as the top goal where teachers can provide an environment of exploration, challenge, and discovery without worrying about the results of a test.
Womenetics: What is embedded in the philosophy or teaching methods at Galloway that you would like to see in the public schools?
Farokhi: The focus on the whole child through the academic, creative arts, and the physical health. Our schools should provide a learning environment where students and teachers engage in the learning process respectfully while pursuing excellence.
Womenetics: You created the Georgia State University Leadership Academy for Women, a professional development program. Why?
Farokhi: Staff members are a vital part of the institution and the major portion of the staff is female. There was little, if any, opportunity for professional development.
The Leadership Academy was created to provide opportunities for participants to acquire new skills, knowledge, and improved understanding of working within a university community. The academy created a sense of community and created connections across the university that previously had not occurred. A final piece of the experience was a project that utilized newfound skills to work in teams to develop a project that enhanced the university.
Womenetics: What did you find women needed the most in terms of professional development?
Farokhi: Leadership development and a chance to utilize their expertise and talents within the university setting beyond their current job.
Womenetics: Tell us about the Integrating Gender Equity and Reform grant.
Farokhi: Integrating Gender Equity and Reform (InGEAR), was a four-year research project funded by the National Science Foundation. It focused on quality science and mathematics education for all students in Georgia. The project was a collaboration among five Georgia universities designed to address the issue of equal access and gender equity in science, engineering, and mathematics.
The purpose of the project was to change the ways in which future teachers learn to teach by transforming universities in Georgia that provide teacher preparation programs by integrating strategies for equity and excellence.
Two main objectives were: 1. to facilitate the redesign of teacher preparation programs in ways that would enhance the interest, motivation, and success of both women and men who were science, engineering, and mathematics majors and prepare the future teachers to promote equal access and gender equity in K-12 science, engineering, and mathematics classes; and 2. to provide professional development opportunities for university faculty and teaching assistants that would equip them with positive support and intervention strategies.
Womenetics: What prompted you to become an educator?
Farokhi: The teachers I had inspired me, challenged me, encouraged me, and believed in me. They influenced and nurtured my love of learning. I saw how a competent caring teacher could use education to change lives for the better.
Womenetics: What can we do to attract the top minds into teaching?
Farokhi: Teaching is one of the most honorable professions, and supporting teachers in a multitude of ways will attract others into the education field. Many of the top minds are already in the teaching field. First and foremost, teachers need to be valued as the professionals that they are trained to be. Our society needs to acknowledge the unique expertise and experience teachers bring to the classroom on a daily basis. Knowledge of a particular area is very important, but equally important is the pedagogy.
Overall components that would attract people into teaching would be excellent training, adequate financial compensation, mentoring programs as teachers begin their careers, conducive environment to learning (physical classroom space, supplies), and the understanding of how students learn.
Womenetics: What is your philosophy of education?
Farokhi: Education is a lifelong process that focuses on the individual. It is a process that challenges one to excel, to question, to explore, to grow intellectually and creatively so that the person’s potential is fully realized.
Mary Welch is a freelance writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Dawson Times, Plan Your Meeting magazine, and Atlanta Business magazine. Previously, she held many positions with Leader Publishing, including editor-in-chief of Atlanta Woman, editor of Business to Business magazine, and editor of Catalyst magazine. As editor of Business to Business, she assigned, edited, and conceptualized a series that was awarded Silver in the 2005 GAMMA Awards for Best Series. Welch was a reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle for eight years and freelanced for publications including Glamour, Advertising Age, South, Georgia Trend, and Oz. From 2000 to 2003, she served as vice president of media relations for Bank of America, during which time she authored Forever Green: A History and Hope of the American Forest with Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell.