The course of Barb Ramos’s career turned on a math problem:
If one teacher affects the lives of x number of students, how many student lives could you impact by teaching the teachers?
“I came into college teaching because I genuinely believe that the best way to impact education as a whole is to put high-quality teachers in the classroom,” Ramos says.
“When I was teaching a single classroom, I felt like I was impacting individual student lives, but it felt even more powerful to be part of a team that puts a high-quality teacher in a classroom who teaches hundreds of students.”
Ramos is now leading that team at Simpson. In June, she took over as chair of the education department.
“I’m very excited,” she says. “I’m nervous. There’s a lot to learn, but I like challenges like that. It’s something I knew that I’d want to do at some point in my professional life at Simpson.”
The stakes are high. Education majors represent about 20 percent of each Simpson graduating class. And the college has a proud tradition of sending excellent teachers into the nation’s classrooms.
“Simpson has a reputation that was built long before I was ever here of having a strong teacher education program,” Ramos says. “If they’re applying for a job in the Midwest, Simpson means something to those principals and superintendents, and it means quality.”
But teaching remains a highly competitive field. The demand is high for high school math and science teachers, as well as special education teachers at all levels. For other jobs, Simpson graduates may find themselves competing with 300 or 400 other applicants.
“We tell them from the minute they get to campus that they have to do things while they’re here that will distinguish themselves from those hundreds of applicants,” she says. “Just getting good grades in your college classes won’t be enough.”
One of the benefits of Simpson, Ramos says, is the number of campus organizations that provide leadership opportunities to students. In addition, Simpson has great relationships with local schools that result in internships.
Most of all, Ramos says, she hopes students will discover the joy of teaching.
“I’ve never felt that coming to Simpson was like coming to my job, because I love it,” Ramos says. “That’s what we want for our students. We don’t want them to go to a job. We want them to love what they do.”
Ramos says the education department faculty practice what they teach.
“You’ll hear the theme from all of us – it’s not just about teaching the subject matter, it’s about genuinely having a relationship with students and knowing them as people” she says.
“You have to create a classroom climate that is comfortable and where everybody feels welcome as a precursor to any learning happening.”
Along with her Simpson duties, Ramos is proud of her work as prevention educator with the Warren County Child Abuse Prevention Council, which provides more training and teaching opportunities.
“It’s really amazing to go out and talk with parents and educators and community people about protecting kids,” she says.
Here’s another math problem:
How big a Jimmy Buffet fan would you have to be to attend 26 of his concerts over the past three decades?
The answer: Very big. Ramos and her husband, Rich, the assistant dean of students at Simpson, attended their first Buffet concert 26 years ago in Des Moines. They were there earlier this year for Buffet’s return concert in Des Moines.
“Let’s be honest,” she says. “He’s not the greatest musician who ever lived. But he sets an atmosphere of fun and relaxation. There’s all walks of life there, and they all become your best friend for a few hours.”
Four questions for Barb:
What’s the most interesting thing in your office?
An “Easy” button. Sometimes you have to celebrate small successes by hearing, ‘That was easy.’
One thing people probably would know about me is….
I won first place at the Iowa State Fair for twirling my baton (in the cattle barn!)
If I weren’t a professor, I would be….
An elementary school principal.
If I won the lottery, I would:
I’d be a Red Cross volunteer who leaves on short notice for all parts of the country.
An elementary school principal.