Friday, November 19, 2010
Tribute to Dr. Joe Rubinstein from one of his advisees
Dr. Rubinstein has announced his retirement from Coker at the completion of this academic year. Raven Lyles, a Coker student and advisee of Dr. Rubinstein wrote this tribute and several of her teaching-student colleagues thought others should see it. it was distributed by email at Coker and I thought I would share through the Coker Experience Blog. In the photo Dr. Rubinstein shares some thoughts with students before one of the night classes.
By Raven Lyles
A Lasting Legacy
As Coker students we have all heard the sad and unfortunately true news of Dr. Joseph Rubinstein’s retirement, due to take place after the Spring 2011 semester. Coker has seen its share of well qualified and uncommonly bright professors, but only a handful have created legacies that will not fade as the years pass. Joseph Rubinstein has accomplished this task by not only being a great educator, but a revolutionary who has made lasting mark on Coker and on the field of education. To better understand why he is such an asset to our modest college requires learning about his own education, his many career successes, and the individuality that makes him who he is.
Although he is currently widely known in the education field, his original plans did not include becoming a part of this vocation. He studied Biology at New York University with specializations in plant physiology, pathology and biochemistry. He received a B.A., M.S., and PhD in these areas and also held the positions of Graduate Student, Teaching Fellow, Lecturer, Assistant Professor of Biology and Associate Research Scientist while at NYU. He first became interested in education when he “really learned to enjoy teaching introductory biology courses to non-science majors.” He was further intrigued through his participation in a National Science Foundation funded experimental science curriculum development project called the COPES Program. During this time he realized that many of his biology students planned to become elementary school teachers and that he wasn’t adequately preparing them to teach the curriculum he was developing. Due to this he completed a post doctoral program in which he helped teachers implement science programs in the New York City public schools. To this day he credits much of his educational attainments to four of his NYU professors/mentors including Morris Shamos, Darrell Barnard, James Rutherford, and William Crotty.
After completion of his education he moved to the small Midwestern town of LaSalle, Illinois, in order to work with The Open Court Publishing Company, who wanted him to develop an elementary school science curriculum, which evolved into a math curriculum. Open Court was a unique opportunity for him because they granted him and his co-authors the freedom of writing, testing, rewriting, and retesting the program. During this time Rubinstein directed a nationwide field testing program that included more than 2000 teachers at its peak. Finally, after 12 years of perfecting, the Real Math curriculum for grades K-8 was released. This curriculum was co-authored by some of the best minds, whom Rubinstein holds in high regards. These men include Peter Hilton, Carl Bereiter, and Stephen Willoughby. He also expresses gratitude to his publisher, Blouk Carus, whom he says “was genuinely interested in curriculum reform.” These four co-authors continue to collaborate on the Real Math Program which has been in continuous publication for about 35 years and which is now published by the McGraw-Hill Company.
After the developmental stage of the curriculum was completed, there was still work to be done in showing teachers how to properly use Real Math in the classroom. Rubinstein traveled across the United States, helping schools implement the program. After he did this for many years he wanted a change. Since he had always wished to live in the Southeast, he decided to apply for teaching positions at southeastern colleges. Despite an unlimited list of qualifications and accomplishments, many colleges could not hire him because of his non-traditional educational background. When a position for the Chair of the Education Department at Coker College became available he applied and luckily for the students at the school the Provost at the time realized he could be an asset and embraced his unique background. However, in order to actually receive the position he had to be interviewed by the State Department of Education, something not typically required in the hiring of college professors. After completing the interviews and obtaining the position he immediately began work on the department. He started the evening education program, and it grew to more than 100 students within two years. Many other important aspects of the Education Department can be attributed to Dr. Rubinstein as well.
Dr. Rubinstein is just as successful in his personal life as he is in his professional. He is married to a loving wife and has two children who each have thriving careers of their own. I have personally been blessed with being an advisee and friend of Dr. Rubinstein for almost two years and I can honestly say that he has influenced my life tremendously in that short amount of time. Although his knowledge is remarkable and his accomplishments are exceptional, there is never a time that he makes you feel intimidated or uneasy. He has a naturally welcoming aura that he extends to all of his students and fellow faculty members.
As a friend I was able to question him about his most memorable times at Coker to which he said, with a hint of rebellion, “resigning as department chair and not having to put up with bureaucratic nonsense and being able to focus on teaching.” He also mentions his fondness of starting the evening education program for paraprofessionals because it allowed Coker faculty much improved influence in elementary school classrooms. When asked what he plans to do after he retires he responded “I plan to keep busy by doing things that are socially useful and that help people, but I am unsure of the specifics.” He also hopes to be able to stay involved with Coker to a certain degree and gives these words of wisdom to all education students, “make sure you learn something every day and if you ever spend time in the classroom without learning, you will know it is time to retire.” He continues by advising all students to “try to surround yourselves with colleagues who know more than you.”
Dr. Rubinstein’s retirement is truly a tremendous loss for Coker but those of us who have had the opportunity to study under him will always remember his fervent thirst for knowledge, his potent individuality, and his ability to make us question the norms of education and strive for the best for our students. Dr. Joseph Rubinstein, a lasting legacy.