Empowering Tomorrow's Educators

When Dr. Engin Atasay first came to Bristol Community College in 2014, he was given the herculean task of revamping the Elementary and Secondary Education Department with the goal of preparing graduates to work as transformative educators who foster positive change in their communities. Today the program has evolved to meet the needs of the modern classroom and is driven by empowerment, inclusion, and cultural competence, the pillars of critical pedagogy. 

Engin Atasay

Engin Atasay, Ph.D.

Atasay emigrated from Turkey to come to the U.S as a graduate student studying political science and transitioned into a Ph.D. program in Education, Culture, and Society at the University of Utah graduating in 2014. His global perspective and educational background provide him with a unique perspective to engage in dialogue about equity, diversity, and inclusion.

“The program is like my baby because when I first came to Bristol, it was a mass transfer liberal arts program with just one education course, EDU 220, Foundations of Education with Teaching Pre-Practicum,” says Atasay. Through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, he researched their policies, regulations, and forecasts. The program is a springboard for students who aspire to teach from kindergarten through grade 6 (K-6), and Middle/Highschool. It provides a pathway to transfer to a four-year college or university. After earning 48 credits, students qualify to work as paraprofessionals. 

“I am intrigued with deep questions about justice and have a critical lens about the world,” he says. As an associate professor and chair of Elementary and Secondary Education, the department serves as a model for social justice and transformative change because it provides students with the courses to prepare them to work in the ever-changing field of education. 

He teaches EDU 130 Education, Society, & Philosophy, EDU 220 Foundation of Education with Teacher Pre-practicum, and EDU 225 Diversity and Multicultural Education. “The core courses are designed to provide students with the best knowledge that they need to be able to function in classrooms where there’s a diverse student body, he says.” “Students not only need to be critical thinkers, but they need to be caring and compassionate and be aware of their power in the classroom.” Developing a professional identity mirrors the program's mission, which is to create empowering educators. 

As a visionary, Atasay sees how technology has changed the dynamics of teaching in the classroom and he helped design a new course, EDU210 Education and Technology where students are made aware of how a 21st century classroom operates. This course investigates the use of technology and issues of equity to foster meaningful educational experiences for all students. 

In EDU 220, students go into the classroom with a highly qualified teacher and observe as part of the coursework. “Students get a better sense of what the field is and what they need to work on,” he says. “They bring back their insights and produce reflective work.” 

To meet the needs of his students and to place them for the pre-practicum observation, he developed strong relationships with the Fall River School system and Diman Regional Technical Vocational High School. 

His connections in higher education create a seamless transition for students to enroll in a four-year institution and continue with a bachelor’s degree. “The Partnership Pathways with Bridgewater State University is our most popular option, but Leslie University is also an accommodating partner.” The program also has students utilizing transfer opportunities within the Plus Program between Bristol and UMass Dartmouth, particularly for students who are in the General Studies/Education Studies program, which Engin Atasay took part in developing. 
His partnership with the JET (Journey into Education and Teaching) program provides paraprofessionals and teachers the opportunity to transfer into a bachelor’s program and attain their teaching license with financial assistance. He also created the Bristol chapter of SEAM (Student Educators Association of Massachusetts). The organization provides students with networking opportunities like conferences and workshops and is affiliated with the MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association).  

Atasay has advice for his students. “If you want to be an educator, you need to reflect on your engagement with your community as well as the world,” he says. “What is local is global and what is global is local.”