Alternative teacher certification
Driving southbound on I-75 recently, Marvin Benedetti spoke excitedly about his new opportunity to change careers and become a teacher. The 50-year-old told Michigan Education Report, via his cell phone, about his 32-year career as a die designer at General Motors, his 12 years as an adjunct faculty member at Macomb County Community College, and his desire to become a high school math teacher.
Benedetti, however, won’t be doing any teaching in Michigan. His southbound trek on I-75 was actually taking him back to Florida, where he is in the process of moving.
From the Big Three to Dow Chemical to Upjohn, not to mention researchers at colleges and universities statewide, Michigan is flush with experts in mathematics, the sciences and engineering, yet a person who holds a doctorate is not allowed to teach in a public school without going through the state’s exacting certification steps.
The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence is trying to change that.
"Our goal is to help transition people looking to make a career change into the classroom," said Andrew Campanella, senior director of teacher recruitment and communications for ABCTE. "We want to see a physician, for example, in the classroom, inspiring the next generation of doctors, or a novelist in an English class."
Benedetti, who took early retirement from GM, will work as a die designer at a small company in Florida while going through the ABCTE program.
"It was actually a school district in Florida that pointed me in this direction," Benedetti said. "It doesn’t make a lot of sense that Michigan doesn’t accept this type of thing. If I felt like in the future they would, I’d love to stay. Maybe Michigan will eventually turn it around."
ABCTE, founded in 2001, has developed a program it calls "Passport to Teaching" that is designed to help people get certified to teach in public schools within their area of expertise. The program takes between six and nine months, and is accepted by the state Departments of Education in Florida, Idaho, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Utah, as well as the charter schools in Texas and Washington, D.C.
Once completed, the teachers also are automatically registered as "highly qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act regulations, which require teachers to have a degree in, and exhibit content knowledge of, the core classes they teach.
Another Michigan resident, Sally Hoyt, also is looking at teaching in Florida after completing the ABCTE testing.
"I was down there visiting my sister, who is a teacher, and attended a meeting about it," Hoyt said. "It’s perfect for someone like me, who is looking for a mid-life career change."
For Hoyt, it will actually be a return to teaching. As an art education major, Hoyt was certified to teach kindergarten through high school, but was not able to find a teaching job in the late 1970s, and ended up in the business world.
"What’s wrong with people who have solid work experience in business wanting to become teachers?" Hoyt asked rhetorically. "Too many teachers start right out of college, get good benefits and then stay and stay, and the kids are the victims. They need fresh faces in there."
Not everyone agrees. Margaret Trimer-Hartley, communications director for the Michigan Education Association school employees union, does not think corporate experience makes for good teachers.
"All that proves is they can get up every day and show up for work on time," Trimer-Hartley told Michigan Education Report.
Trimer-Hartley did not return further phone calls to Michigan Education Report seeking comment on the process of alternative teacher certification.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, about one-third of public school teachers did not major or minor in the core subject(s) they teach. Sam Peavey, professor emeritus of the School of Education at the University of Illinois, testified before a subcommittee of the Iowa Legislature in 1988 that in 50 years of research, he could not find a significant correlation between teacher certification and student achievement.
HOW ABCTE WORKS
Campanella says there are about 2,200 people currently enrolled in the program, and more than 100 already teaching in classrooms. Of those hired, a recent survey found 95 percent of the principals who hired ABCTE teachers found them as effective or more effective than teachers who come from a conventional undergraduate program. The average age of an ABCTE client is 40, and 40 percent of them hold advanced degrees. The program focuses on biology, chemistry, math, language arts, physics and special education.
People who sign up for ABCTE are paired with classroom teacher who acts as the person’s adviser. Candidates take a series of tests to determine their knowledge of the subject matter in the area they hope to become certified, as well as tests to determine their "professional teaching knowledge." Professional teaching knowledge, Campanella says, covers everything from classroom management to developing lesson plans to learning how to deal with parents.
"It’s essentially like the methods courses taught in colleges of education to undergrads," he said. "There’s a self assessment to determine the person’s level of knowledge, and then they work with the adviser to develop a study plan to learn what they need to learn."
Campanella said the program allows people to work at their own pace, and is tailored to mid-career changes.
"We realize people need to continue working and earning a paycheck," he said. "But that shouldn’t keep good people out of the classroom."
Depending on the state regulations, an ABCTE graduate receives a temporary teaching permit upon getting hired, then follows whatever probationary or beginning steps state law requires in order to obtain a full professional teaching certificate.
ABCTE’s program, which costs $560, is heavily focused on research-based techniques, which Campanella said makes for a strong background no matter the subject or person.
"There are mountains of evidence supporting this method," he said. "It’s not dependent on recent fads or what one professor happens to think."
The group is now embarking on a program called Project 5,000, which is focused on recruiting 5,000 new math and science teachers by 2009, including a heavy emphasis on multi-cultural candidates.
"Something like this could be extremely beneficial in a state like Michigan, where you’ve recently increased the high school graduation requirements," Campanella said. "States that require tougher math and science classes have to make sure they have the teachers to fill those classrooms."
The article on alternative teacher certification was a
valuable source of information about a program that is greatly needed in
Michigan. Alternative certification will not only benefit students by
exposing them to a wider range of experienced leaders, it should help
alleviate teacher shortages in critical areas of instruction.
- Dennis Rogoszewski, business manager, Gratiot-Isabella RESD
Another glaring example of how the public education establishment in this state resists reforms that can benefit students. Allowing an alternative teacher certification program such as ABCTE would expand the supply of qualified teachers available to educate our children. Unfortunately, from the MEA’s standpoint, it would inject competition into the educational labor market.
In addition to aiding the education industry, allowing alternative teacher certification programs could help expand the state’s declining employment opportunities. This would be an excellent opportunity for laid off automotive engineers to transition into new careers. Today, these engineers are forced to pursue employment elsewhere. Anyone desiring a new career in education is quickly turned away by the requirements. A few years ago, I investigated the possibility of changing careers from software design and development to elementary education. Despite a college degree and 15 years of industry experience, I would have to return to college full-time for 3 years to get certified.
Contrary to Trimer-Hartley’s assertions, my 15 years experience didn’t prove I “can get up every day and show up for work on time.” I proved that in the low wage jobs I held while earning my way through college. Instead, my experience brings many other skills that can help diversify the classroom environment. Although I must admit one glaring limitation; my experience does leave me unprepared for the massive bureaucracy controlling public education.
- Steve Sutton, parent, Farmington Hills, Mich.
It was with great interest that I read this article. I'm a first year graduate student at Western Michigan University working on a double-master's in Public Administration and Political-Science. By this time next year, I should be teaching undergraduate courses in poli-sci, as well as taking classes in teaching poli-sci. My advisor informed me there's a chance I could teach at the community college level before I complete my master's program. Once completed, I will definitely be eligible to teach at the college level. In fact, I ran into one of my undergrad professors and she urged me to contact her once my program is complete to check into teaching at my alma matter. So, I'll have 2 master's degrees, training and actual experience in teaching poli-sci/govt. I will be eligible to teach at the college level, but not high school because I will not have earned a teaching certificate. I found it even more amusing that I'll be taking my teaching poli-sci courses with high school teachers who are working on their continuing education requirements. I just checked with WMU, and their website claims that it can take a minimum of 3 to 4 semesters to complete the teaching certificate requirements. Teaching at the high school level does appeal to me, but the prospect of having to take 3-4 additional semesters, after 6 yrs. of undergrad and grad work really kills my enthusiasm.
One would hope that with such tightly structured certification programs, Michigan schools would be performing far better than they currently are. The arrogance demonstrated by Margaret Trimer-Hartley in her comments to the Michigan Education Report are so typical of the MEA. It wasn't that long ago that I was in high school and I can assure Ms. Trimer-Hartley that there were several teachers in my high school who thought that getting up everyday and coming to work was about the extent of their required duties. But, hey, they had their certificates!
Here's to injecting some much needed competition into this and most educational processes and practices in Michigan.
Paul Esman, graduate student, Western Michigan University.
I think it's about time Michigan implements an alternative certification for teaching, especially with its changing economy. Like many women and men in mid life, I too would love to get my teaching certification but am held back because of financial responsibilities and time. I looked into a similiar certification program outside of Michigan and decided it was not appropriate for me. Plus moving out of state was not an option. With an undergrad degree in Human Resources/Human Services, teaching is a natural transition. I have worked in education for 12 years and feel my experience and knowledge of teaching English Language Learners is at par with a certified teacher. Having an alternative certification program in Michigan would appeal to someone who is in the same position as myself. I feel this is one more way Michigan can move forward.
- Deborah Nash, para educator, Troy School District.
I was very interested in this article because I just recently finished my Masters degree in Education to become certified here in Michigan. I have worked in sales for the past 7 years; however I have always wanted to become a teacher. I finally had the opportunity and enrolled in the University of Phoenix Online Education program. This program allowed me to work full time and go to school. It took me two and half years and I recently received my Provisional Certification for K-5 all subjects. The ABCTE program sounds like a great opportunity for individuals that have experience outside of teaching as well as higher degrees. I think that teachers that have real world experience along with the content knowledge have a lot to offer. The bottom line is people that go into teaching usually have a passion for it and want to make a difference. Whether the decision was made right after high school or later on in life, it takes a special person. I feel that traditional education programs and alternative programs will yield the same results.
I was a bit surprised to read the comment from Margaret Trimer-Hartley. That was quite a bold generalized statement and I took offense as would most people that are working. I feel that my experience in the business world and my program have prepared me to excel in teaching. A teacher's job is not only to educate students, but to interact with co-workers, parents, and administration. Maybe a little experience in sales or business would help in this area. Just a thought!
- Ashley Kaczanowski, substitute teacher, Fraser Public Schools.
Your article was very well written. I too believe that Michigan needs to join other states in allowing alternative ways to become a Certified Teacher. Teacher as defined by Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary is: "One that teaches; especially: one whose occupation is to instruct." Teach is defined as: "To cause to know something; to cause to know how; to accustom to some action or attitude; to guide the studies of; to impart the knowledge of; to instruct by precept, example, or experience". No where do I see in either definition "to go to a University and take a prescribed set of classes."
Under a very unique set of circumstances I began a teaching position using an Emergency Permit issued by the State. Trying to complete my degree and the requirements set forth to obtain my degree and certification was a nightmare! I was told by the State Department of Education that they have no jurisdiction over what requirements the Universities wish to impose on students to obtain their degrees. They go on the recommendation of the University. I find this ludicrous since the State issues my Teaching Certificate! The University is in the business of making money and they wanted to make sure I paid for every single class they felt I needed to take to be "educated" enough to become a teacher. My REAL education came from working in the classroom, on my own, not through the exposure to teaching allowed by Student or Intern-teaching. I had to take a leave of absence from my job as a teacher to do Student teaching! No exceptions were made.
I understand that rules and regulations need to be in place, but I also know that quite often common sense is not used. Until the State of Michigan's Education Department becomes more involved in the processes that Universities take in issuing degrees to allow students to become certified teachers, things are not going to change. People who have valuable knowledge and experience to bring to our children of today are going to continue to move to other states that allow alternative ways of certification so they can teach.
I do however believe that those wishing to receive teaching certificates should have to take the same Michigan Teacher Certification Tests to show that they are knowledgeable in the area they wish to teach, but that knowledge can be learned outside a University classroom. Until people realize that you do not necessarily have to take classes to become a teacher, things are not going to change: the state of Michigan will continue to lose dynamic individuals to other states. Alternative Teacher Certification programs must be implemented in our state or our children will continue miss out on the opportunities to have some wonderful people teach them.
- Kristina Crabill, special education teacher, Sturgis, Mich.
Dysfunctional. We, as in all of us, have created a system of education that doesn't - educate that is. Children learn and grow only because they are inclined to do so, not as the result of attending school and being 'taught.' Study the works of Sizer, Goleman, Gardner, Kohn and Dewey and a glimmer of how dysfunctional will be revealed.
I share the experience of all those that have commented on the process of alternative teacher certification yet have been fortunate enough to participate in the joy of children's learning as a guest teacher these last five years. To all those who desire to teach, if you can find the time, substitute. Even in a brief visit your enthusiasm and experience will contribute much!
I ask your readers to study Ed Deming (Book: Out of the Crisis) and investigate a manufacturing practice named "lean thinking" (Book: The Gold Mine) and draw there own conclusions about what must be done. Then join with the Michigan Education Report and similar organizations to pressure both the legislature and the State Board of Education to begin the process of measured profound change.
Failing that, take a couple of hours and have some fun. Read "Totto Chan. The Little Girl at the Window" and smile as a decidedly different type of school experiences a little girl's learning journey.
- Chuck Fellows, substitute teacher, South Lyon, Mich.
Interestingly, I told the author of this article that I could not offer comment or an MEA position on this particular route to teacher certificaiton because I did not have enough information. Generally MEA has not been impressed with efforts to short-circuit the route to license teachers, because they do not provide an adequate balance between subject mastery and pedagogy. One must know the subject AND be able to convey to students who bring a variety of learning styles to the classroom. Let's not forget the importance of understanding child development, psychology and classroom management. If you don't think those areas are important in education, step into a classroom where the teacher does not have a grasp on good management practices.
That said, I would NEVER nor would MEA ever suggest that there are not highly qualified individuals in the corporate workplace who can and should be teachers. What I did say is "Just because someone has demonstrated they can punch a clock and function in the workplace does not mean they can teach." That is just plain common sense. We can and should streamline the certification process to open the doors to more people with real-world experience. The current certification process is not perfect. But let's not be stupid in our efforts to get more and better educators into our classrooms. And let's not diminish the reality that not everyone can or should be a teacher.
- Margaret Trimer-Hartley, spokeswoman, Michigan Education Associtation.
I wish I had known about Florida's program six years ago when I returned to
school to work on my Elementary Science degree. I am a Registered
Respiratory Therapist and have worked in that field for over twenty years. I
started working on my teaching degree in 2000, because...well because it's
what I wanted to do out of high school but did not have the opportunity to
do, and this is my last shot. I had about 4 yrs. experience as a teacher-
aide and lunch aide and about 180 college credit hours under my academic
belt when I started working on the teaching degree, but because I have to
work full time to support my family and provide medical benefits, and
because...well let's face it, life happens, it's taking me forever to get
through this degree. In fact, now my husband is on permanent layoff because
of outsourcing and I've had to delay my student teaching again because I
cannot afford to give up my full time job. Florida, eh? Hmmm........
- Terry Keck, reader, St. Clair Shores, Mich.
I found this article interesting because as an elementary principal, I have not found any shortage of teachers at this level. If we have an opening, we generally have about 50 applicants to choose from. Under these circumstances, I would not favor alternative certification for those not completing a full educational program preparing them to become teachers.
At the high school level I know that this is not always the case. Math and Science teachers are in demand and consideration should be given for alternative certification methods to meet this need. I would only support this through a formal program such as ABCTE. Just because a person was successful in their business profession doesn't mean they would be effective in the classroom. Personal traits play a factor as well. How people relate to students, their ability to impart the knowledge they have in a meaningful way are not areas that may be required in the business or industry world. A person may be very knowledgeable but may not be able to teach that knowledge to others. Teacher preparation programs focus on this during the student teaching portion of the program. To obtain alternative certification should also require "practice" time in the classroom under direct supervision.
- Bob Culter, elementary school principal, Airport Community Schools, South Rockwood, Mich.
I agree wholeheartedly. I think Michigan does need to look into alternative teacher certification because as factory workers lose jobs, the only way to keep these workers in Michigan, and their money in Michigan’s economy, is to keep them employed. And what better way than to allow bright workers to teach Michigan’s youth? This article has given me a lot to think about and I am writing my senior honors thesis next year developing a comprehensive school reform policy and I plan on giving some consideration to this topic now that you’ve written it. Keep up the great work!
- Brett Baker, public policy student, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.
The central educational planners have failed many of the citizens of the State of Michigan. Many states were very comfortable with embracing individuals from the business sector, why? They are comfortable with the post-secondary education an individual received a from higher learning institution.
Ms. Trimer-Hartley's statement indicates there is no confidence in others educated outside the educational arena. I differ with the comment made by Margaret Trimer-Hartley, communications director for the Michigan Education Association school employees union. What needs to occur and what will actually happen has yet to be seen on any measurable tandem. Being open to the necessary changes to fixing the debacle state of public education is going to take getting the narrow-minded people out of the education sector—period. We have a greater percentage of teachers with 20 years or more still in the classroom, while not the worst thing, yet many have seen failure over and over again. Failure is somewhat standard operating procedure, not only from the students year after year, but from the educational leadership collectively too. Really, how motivated are they to change the way things have gone for the last twenty-five years or so?
I am an individual who came from the business environment to teach. Really totally unaware of the state of public education, it is a very sad and distressing environment. As a nation and as a state, we can no longer look out at the educational lens and pretend any more. The gloomy level of educating in our state and country is down-right scary! Alternative teacher certification was supposed to help bring another mind set, a fresh lens and perspective. I came to education with technology skills many teachers are afraid to acquire and use in their classrooms. Not to mention, capital resources are scarcely allocated to the students in the classroom as well. In the 21st Century, we still have individuals who really don’t see how the World is getting smaller as it relates to where we stand as a nation and as a state. As a country and as a state, we have lost our comparative advantage in the development of knowledge assets in order to compete in a highly ever-changing global economy.
Alternative teacher certification provides our state the opportunity to re-distribute knowledge assets to the educational sector and begin the process of re-inventing education with a visionary perspective of where 21st Century learning needs to evolve. I really believe education is gone way beyond reform. The public educational setting needs a cure. Not just band-aids and quick-fixes. A cure—it’s just that simple, yet not easy to pull-off. Public education needs innovation. Public education needs people to support and be committed to a cure. We are lost without one. Reform should be an outlawed word in Education. While some measures of reform have changed the downward spiral for some individuals, down in the trenches a.k.a. the classroom and the community at-large are still crying for a re-igniting, a Bonn fire to change the current charted course of public education. Meanwhile, a business education may not make for a good teacher. The same can definitely be said about teacher education as well. However, an individual who is passionate about what they have chosen to do in life makes a great teacher to whomever they come in contact with.Alternative teacher certification is what the educational planners have chosen to call it like it means something to a lesser position of teacher. I disagree. I see it as an opportunity for improvement in a situation that is screaming for help. It is going to take people from all industry sectors in this country to turn-around public education and move it forward and onward into the 21st Century. No one is exempt from negative economic outcomes. People living and who have left the State of Michigan have some heart wrenching story to tell, I'm sure.
- Cassandra Steele, director, Leap2Literacy, Redford, Mich.
At this time there are many teachers in Michigan that are “highly qualified” to teach Career Tech. Education, but are unable to get credit for science or math for their students. Things they teach everyday, in the context of their field. A change in this law would allow for their students to meet the new requirements and still take CTE programs.
- Janet Rippy, teacher, Dearborn Heights District #7.
Great article! Michigan has created an intellectual trade deficit with states competing for our talent. We need to provide opportunities for those individuals in the educational arena. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of people that would become teachers if a program existed to complete the requirements in a timely fashion. Going back to school for a year and one half to two years is just too much of a commitment for an established professional in another field.
- Lyle Thomas, principal, Durand High School.
These types of initiatives, ABCTE, are exactly what Michigan needs to advance public education in our state. Students need to find relevance in their work to stay tuned into their daily studies. What better way to bring relevance into the high school classroom, than with professional,experienced, adults who can relate real world technologies, practices, and methodologies from the work world and bring it into the classroom. Michigan is fortunate to have excellent teacher preparation schools, and many caring and compassionate teaching professionals in our public education system, however, with the world changing at record speeds due to globalization and technology, there needs to be a better connection to business and industry to help our students prepare for life after high school and college.
We shouldn't be so short sighted in our thinking that only those adults who have obtained a teaching certificate, two, five, or ten years ago, are the only adults qualified to teach our children. There is an awful lot of teaching that goes on in Corporate America to remediate our recent high school grads, provide on the job training, continual skills advancements, and professional development that we could learn from. During the first three years on the job, new teachers are learning from their peers how to best manage their classroom, plan lessons, and guide students from an assigned mentor.....we offer this on the job training to new teachers in education, why wouldn't we offer it to experienced professionals wanting to change careers?
I disagree with Margaret Trimer-Hartley, communications director for the Michigan Education Association school employees union, who thinks these efforts are stupid to get more and better educators into our classrooms. These programs are enhancing, not diminishing, the ability to put good teachers in front of
the classroom. I applaud the efforts of states such as Florida, Idaho, New
Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Utah who are simply giving passionate, educated professionals another venue later in their careers, to teach our children.
- Liz Broderick, director of business and human resources, Saugatuck Public Schools.
I think ABCTE is an excellent idea. Congratulations to the writer of this article in bringing another problem in the Michigan teacher certification process to light. I know of a number of people that would love to return some of their knowledge to the children in our state, but are unable to take one to two years off from making a living for their family to return to school to get their certification.
We continue to discuss the brain drain that is occurring in the state of Michigan due to our changing economy. One of the ways to avoid this is to provide alternatives to the current jobs that some of these people are losing through attrition. Keeping these people in the state not only helps the current situation in the state, but also improves the future as these individuals would be able to impart some of their wisdom on the children in our schools.
I sincerely hope the state of Michigan takes a look at ABCTE as a way to deal with the need for teachers in a number of specialized areas.
- Scott MacDonald, board of education member, Allendale Public Schools.
As our population turns the "boomers" into seniors, we have a rare opportunity to harvest, talent and expereince for education. Since when did education become a "sacred cow" or heaven forbid a "bureaucracy".
Although our public education is well meaning, we are still operating in the same school mind set as we did 100 years ago. Current Public Education, with all its new technoolgy is about as dynamic as a steam engine. Yes, we graduate students, yes, we adhere to the laws and rules of the this mandate or that, however, we seem to have forgotten that education no matter how you change the name, the place or the people doing it, is a basic need of a community. Public education of a democratic community is the life blood of the state. Education is teaching and encouraging the potential of students and making voting citizens that must compete in a global market, this is not an easy task.
Alternative certification is one of the ways we could "ALL" help in our schools. There is a pool of not only talented professionals in science and math, but in other areas as well.These talented individuals could bring a wealth of information and new programs to our students k-12 system. We all need to help produce the next generations of citizens. Will our "professional educators" accept them into the education pool? Can we afford to pass this potential by?
- Kathleen Johnson, board of education member, Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools.
This is an excellent article that articulates a key issue in the evolution of our school systems. I, like the person in the article, wanted to get into teaching after over 20 years in business in the public and private sector. I was fortunate to secure a position in an adult voc tech center in Michigan training disabled young adults, thereby not needing the required teaching certificate to teach. It has been a win-win situation, since I bring years of practical business experience to the students, and bring it in creative and new ways. I bring real world experience, which helps with emphasis on the application of knowledge, not just the acqusisition of information. I believe our state needs to re-evaluate our system given the evolving state of our educational programs. We can certainly become more "worldly" if we can bring in teachers with real experiences from the "world." Nothing against teachers trained in colleges and universities, many are outstanding in their field, but there is a huge untapped rescource out there we can use to advance our students to the highest level.
- Marsha Bassett, board of education member, Delton Kellogg Schools.
As I read this article and the reaction one finds elements of truth in each reaction. Why does the state and not the institutions of higher learning decide what constitutes the qualifications, why does Michigan not endorse a program such as this alternative routes discussed in the article, should we encourage more folks to enter education when there are few openings available especially in elementary to highlight a few of the comments.
The students of Michigan should have the best Michigan has to offer as their instructors and finding those qualified candidates should be the job of the state, the professional organizations, and the school districts. The majority of teachers with whom I have worked over more than 35 years in the field are extremely well qualified and dedicated to students. It is an extremely difficult job and emotionally exhausting at times. Therefore, I encourage all parties to take every opportunity to search out highly qualified dedicated persons to fill the positions to teach our children. If that means encouraging young people to major in education and the experienced non-educators to join at a later time in life, great! Do it!
Some comments state that alternative methods are not here in Michigan which I read to mean people from occupations outside education are excluded from becoming teachers. In West Michigan I am aware of at least 2 programs designed just for that purpose. Grand Valley State and Aquinas College have programs which train people who have degrees outside of education to become teachers. However placing a person in a classroom just because they are a scientist or an engineer does not mean they are qualified to be a classroom teacher any more than placing a high school biology teacher in surgery. Teaching is a skill and
requires training. Alternative programs which provide this background and training are what we need. Less red tape and complications to achieve this would be helpful of course. Let us not think however that a person decides to change careers and is ready to walk into a classroom without the qualifications for the position. We should not succumb into believing that just because I was a student I can be a teacher. Educators must believe that they are highly skilled professionals doing one of the most important and valuable tasks there are to be done. When we believe that and behave as we truly believe it, then maybe we will attract more and more highly skilled dedicated folks to the field.
- Diane Teeter, elementary school principal, Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Certified does not necessarily mean qualified. The amount of academic muck I had to wade through when I studied to be an English teacher was staggering. I had to spend my hard earned money on twenty-one hours of course time when everything I needed to know about educational science could have been taught in one, three-hour credit class. I wish I would have had that same time to take a few more courses in my major.
- Richard Grieves, teacher, South Lyon Community Schools.
Having actively taught public school for 35 years, I have encountered many excellent as well as sub-standard educators. The highly effective creative individuals had an inert sense and a huge bank of ideas and strategies as to the motivation and inspiration of students. Ususally, experience and not classroom methods training produced the more successful teacher. In the past 5 years I have had the priveledge to mentor many second-career teachers, who at age 40+ had the patience, wisdom, creativity and basic common sense when it came to the classroom experience. The creation of a lesson from grade-level equivalence and state expectations is easy for most professionals. However, the successful execution of the lesson can only be mastered with experience and a well developed cache of adaptations and flexible delivery devices.
Most first year teachers, no matter what their life-experiences do not have the quick reflexes to adapt and change lessons without painful redrafting. The successful teacher is a master of flexibility and constant change so to meet the demands of multi-level ability students. Most first year right out of college or professionals from non-teaching backgrounds have not mastered these higher level instructional skills. In other words, master teachers have mastered teaching.
I feel the best way to service the students and create excellent teachers is to pair them with a well-recognized, well-respected, well-established senior teacher. Sharing of style, classroom management technique, effective lesson
planning, differentiation of instruction and successful teaching strategies can be combined with a non-education school professional within the classroom walls. Pairing of these second-career professionals and good master teaching can easily take the place of lenghthy, non-effective college methods courses. There are numerous teachers who would be more than willing to assume the role of mentor within the classroom to provide the "hands-on" experience necessary to produce better instructors and therefore, benfit our students. Within 1 year, a well versed professional can have the tools necessary to become a
well-prepared teacher, if they are actively mentored and cooperatively
engaged with a solid senior teacher.
- Suzanne Skwarski, retired teacher, Dearborn High School.