Frances Schoonmaker

Professor Emeritus Teachers College, Columbia University

I retired from Teachers College, Columbia University (TC) in 2009 after twenty-five years and was awarded the title Professor Emeritus. I haven’t come around to that part of retirement where one lounges on the sofa eating chocolates and watching the soaps—at least, not to the sofa and soaps part. There are so many interesting things to do. Currently, I’m working as Senior Curriculum Specialist for the USAID Teacher Education Project in Pakistan. It takes me to Pakistan four times a year.

From 1983- 2001, I directed the Preservice Program in Childhood Education, a graduate level teacher preparation program at TC. Under my leadership, the program grew from 11 students to 98. I also taught courses in curriculum theory and design, supervision of elementary and secondary schools and history of the curriculum field. I’ve taught, lectured, and consulted internationally, particularly in the Middle East and in China. If you want to know more about my scholarly work, you can check the Teachers College website for retired faculty listings.

In addition to my scholarly publications, I edited five books in the Sterling Press Poetry for Young People series and Growing Up Caring a book for teens on values and decision making funded by the Kennedy Foundation.

On a more personal level, I’m a graduate of The University of Washington and have a MA in early childhood education from George Peabody College, Vanderbilt University and an Ed. D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. I’m daughter of school teachers. I grew up on a farm in rural Oklahoma as the only daughter, happily sandwiched between two brothers. A highlight of every summer was when the box of children’s books our mother ordered from The Oklahoma Library Commission arrived. After graduating from College, I began teaching. Over the years, I taught all of the elementary grades except grade 6. It was fun to be a teacher. I worked with the children to organize things around broad themes and project work. I noticed, though, that it got to be less fun as things began to be more regulated. I think it was this fight against the demeaning of teacher professionalism through over-regulation of schooling that drove me from the classroom. I kept asking where I could make a difference, where I could claim a voice that says “There is a better way!”
I now live in Baltimore, Maryland with my daughter, granddaughter and two cats; one of them is our token male member of the family. My hobbies are reading, writing, sketching, walking, gardening and travel. It is hard to fit them all in—no wonder there is no time for the soaps. The chocolates are another matter.