The University of Florida has selected noted teacher education innovator Renee Tipton Clift, a 1972 graduate of the UF College of Education, to receive its 2015 UF Distinguished Alumni Award.
Clift, a professor and dean at the University of Arizona College of Education, will be recognized at UF’s commencement on May 1 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
She has been a highly influential figure throughout a stellar education career spanning four decades.
“Dr. Clift is noted not only for her innovation, renown and expertise in teacher education, but also for her capacity to build partnerships across educational institutions, policymakers and government agencies,” COE professor emerita Dorene Ross wrote in nominating Clift for the award. “This kind of leadership has direct impact on thousands of teachers and their students and demonstrates the highest levels of leadership.”
After receiving her bachelor’s in education from UF, Clift taught high school English for eight years in Florida. She went on to receive a master’s in educational administration from Stetson University and her Ph.D. in curriculum and teacher education from Stanford before launching her teacher education career at the University of Houston. She also has served on the University of Illinois education faculty, where she was the executive director of the Council on Teacher Education and headed the school’s Novice Teacher Project.
Clift has left her mark at every stop, where she studied or taught, and in her profession at large.
She’s known for her research investigating factors that affect the process of learning to teach—for pre-service teachers, professional development for practicing educators, and education leadership. Her current projects include Communities as Resources for Early Childhood Teacher Preparation (CREATE), a field-based, early childhood teacher prep program; making common core state standards for mathematics accessible to teachers; and an ongoing study that employs self-study methods to examine the impact a college dean can have on program development.
A prolific writer, Clift has co-authored two books, co-edited three others and has contributed 31 book chapters, including chapters in two of the most prestigious and influential books in teacher education–Handbook of Teacher Education and Studying Teacher Education: The AERA Consensus Panel. She has author and co-author citations for numerous journal articles.
“I’ve frequently relied on Dr. Clift’s published work to inform my own scholarship,” wrote UF teaching and learning professor Elizabeth Bondy. “Renee is able to write for multiple audiences, including university researchers, teacher educators, policymakers and classroom teachers. This special talent helps to explain the wide-ranging influence of her professional contributions.”
Not surprisingly, Clift has won numerous professional honors, including the Outstanding Research in English Education Award from the National Council of Teachers of English (twice, and the Hans Olsen Outstanding Teacher Educator Award from the Association of Teacher Educators.
She has held several leadership positions for the two most prominent professional teaching organizations–the Association of Teacher Educators and the American Educational Research Association.
Clift said her coursework and experiences during her bachelor’s studies at UF’s College of Education helped to shape her teaching philosophy and career path. She said her greatest takeaway was discovering that “I can always learn from my students because teaching is more about listening, discussing and interacting then about telling. I learned how to involve students in my classroom activities.”
As for advice to preservice teachers-in-training or novice teachers in their first years of teaching, she offers these words of wisdom: “Teachers are instructional organizers. It isn’t about you and what you do, it is about your students, how you engage them, and how your classroom allows them to learn and develop.”
CONTACT: Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; firstname.lastname@example.org