The Impact of the Designated Subjects Adult Education Credential

Meet Mary Drain.

Mary Drain at work photo
Mary Drain at Orientation Center for the Blind

A graduate of our Designated Subjects Adult Education (DSAE) Teaching Credential program, Drain is now one of a team of 12 teachers who works with newly blind adults at the Orientation Center for the Blind (OCB). OCB, a residential training center for legally blind Californians, offers classes in mobility, computer training, Braille and daily living skills that allow students to care for themselves and to return to work or school.


Years ago when she lost her vision, Drain herself was an OCB student, and she eventually returned to the center to work in Braille instruction. After hearing colleagues laud the UC Berkeley Extension teaching credential program, she decided to enroll and complete the DSAE Teaching Credential to secure a teaching position at OCB. As a credentialed instructor, Drain now empowers visually impaired adults to build full and independent lives, by teaching the same skills she learned at OCB decades earlier.


As part of our multi-part series on the practical and career-based skills offered through our education programs, Drain shares how this credential enriched her as a teacher—in her own words.

Focused on Skills You Can Use

Each of the course projects in the Adult Education Instructor Practicum had practical applications for me, but the one that particularly stands out is the Teaching Reflections Journal. The journal had me reflect on the "problems of practice" in our classrooms. Keeping a journal forced me to both think about the specific instructional strategies I use with my adult students and consider how I might modify some of my lessons. Although I may not specifically use a formal journal again, I certainly foresee using my progress notes to assess what's working in my classroom and what isn't.

Creating a Professional Portfolio

A unique aspect of my practicum was putting together my teaching portfolio. For many teachers who are looking for jobs, a teaching portfolio is often recommended, if not required. Admittedly, because I was already teaching full time, I questioned whether I really needed to put a lot of energy into this project. But, after compiling documents like my résumé, letters of recommendation, lesson plans and professional certifications, I discovered that this exercise had real value for me. It really does communicate who I am as a teacher.

I can honestly say that I am a more complete teacher today than I was a year ago, thanks in no small part to the education classes I have taken through Extension.

Intensive, Accelerated Classes Mean You Really Get to Know Your Cohort

The thing about UC Berkeley Extension’s teaching credential program that stands out for me is the genuine classroom community that was established in each course. Although eight hours is a long time to spend in class, the benefit is that you have the opportunity to get to know your classmates and learn from them.

Your Fellow Students Are So Diverse, But Care About the Same Things

Good grief, where else but in an education program would you find an attorney, a chef, a Braille teacher, a marketing specialist, an electrician, an ESL instructor, a welder and an art teacher in one classroom? Many students were in their 20s, quite a few in our 40s and 50s. For me, the diversity of backgrounds and life experiences among my classmates made the coursework that much more enriching. At the same time, we were all much more similar than we were different—in how much we cared about what we were teaching, the same frustrations; there was so much common ground. The classroom community we forged was wonderful; we laughed a lot.

What This Credential Represents

Professionally, clearing this credential represents greater job security.

Personally, the credential represents a lot of growth for me. I can honestly say that I am a more complete teacher today than I was a year ago, thanks in no small part to the education classes I have taken through Extension. I remember thinking a lot about a statement one of my instructors shared. The gist was, I never learned so much about my subject until I began teaching it. There are no truer words. For someone like myself who entered the teaching profession with expertise in my subject area and some teaching experience behind me, I can say now that I did not know what I did not know. The DSAE coursework filled this void by giving me instructional strategies I had not previously considered and putting names to what I had managed to do intuitively.

Interested in an Adult Education Career?

Learn more about UC Berkeley Extension’s Designated Subjects Adult Education Teaching Credential.


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