Head shot of Jerry Girod
Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Girod epitomizes why quality teacher education has been a hallmark of Western Oregon University since its founding in 1856. From an elementary school teacher to college professor, dean and nationally recognized researcher, Girod’s work has helped to perpetuate and further enhance the university’s reputation. Because of his accomplishments, Girod has been named the 2006 recipient of the WOU Alumni Award of Excellence. “This is very important to me,” Girod said, “because it was given by alumni colleagues from an institution which I hold in great affection.”
As the first in his family to attend college, Girod fit the profile of a typical WOU student that continues to this day. “I had no model for being a college student,” he said. Girod holds his professors Bob Baker, Erhard Dortmund and Bud Garrison in high regard. He describes them as approachable and as faculty who “took an interest in somebody who didn’t have a lot of confidence in himself as a student.”
Girod graduated in 1962 and began teaching sixth grade at Salem’s Englewood Elementary School. Teaching left him with “a lot of questions I needed to have answered,” he said. He really began to understand what education required of him, Girod says, when he became a graduate student. “When I got to graduate school I realized that this is important stuff and that I’d better pay attention; these guys are teaching things that are going to be important in my profession.” He received an MS in Elementary Education from WOU in 1965.
Two years as a research assistant position, 1965 to 1967, made Girod realize that he needed a doctorate to move forward in his profession. He took his wife and two young sons to Pullman, Wash., to do his doctoral work at Washington State University, earning his EdD in 1970. Returning to WOU as an assistant professor, he has remained at the university, serving as a professor, department chair, and dean of the College of Education. While he formally retired in 1995, Girod continues his focus on teacher education today as a research professor in the Teaching Research Institute (TRI).
Girod has joined other TRI researchers and College of Education faculty in publishing numerous papers on connecting teaching and learning. The early work of this group, which essentially developed methods for grading teachers and schools on how effective they are, was ground-breaking—and controversial. So much so, that it caused an Oregon Education Association director to remark in an “Oregonian” interview that researchers in Monmouth were so out of touch with reality they must be smoking an illegal substance.
The resulting teacher work sample methodology has put Monmouth on the education map. In 2002, Girod edited a book on work sample methodology, Connecting Teaching and Learning, which was published by the American Association of Colleges of Teachers Education and has become a national resource. His most notable recent work has been in the development of a web-based simulation, called Cook School District. The simulations program is a practice setting where education students can hone their skills in preparation for student teaching.
Girod explains it as a way in which students can self-assess, to make the essential link between teaching and learning. Students identify the things they want to teach and what they’ll use to do that. As they implement the plan, they begin to understand what adaptations they need to make for certain groups of students to ensure that they learn. And, finally, they set up methods to evaluate how successful they’ve been. This is a way to help make independent professionals, Girod says.
Much of Girod’s work is now done in concert with his third son, Dr. Mark Girod, who is an assistant professor of education at WOU. Girod and Girod are familiar names on national publications and as co-presenters at national conferences on connecting teaching and learning.
Jerry Girod’s many contributions to education also include work with the Oregon Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development for which he received an “Excellence in Education” award in 1994, the group’s highest individual honor. He also currently serves on the Western Oregon University Foundation Board as a trustee-at-large and has been the board’s chair.
“I came (to WOU) as an uninvolved student and felt regarded by the faculty,” Girod said. “I have a great deal of affection for OCE (today’s WOU). I came here for an education, then back for a profession. And in between I acquired a wife.” (Girod married fellow WOU student, Linda Hueller, a day after receiving his undergraduate degree.) “I have two degrees from here, which helped me get a job. And a wife who encouraged me to keep it.”
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