Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Siena Heights course speeds certification for teachers

ADRIAN - Siena Heights University, known for its traditional teacher-education program, is offering an abridged certification course to train teachers for hard-to-fill vacancies.

The program, approved by the state education department, will place new teachers in classrooms within 10 months.

Dee Crane, associate professor of teacher education and program coordinator said professionals seeking a career change and people who have taken early retirement are expected to constitute the majority of its nontraditional students.

“Some of these people will be taking a substantial pay cut,” Ms. Crane said. “But there are a lot of human beings out there who just want to make a difference.”

The program is offered at a time when Michigan faces a potentially crippling exodus of teachers who will be eligible to retire in the next several years.

T.J. Bucholz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, warned that a teacher shortage looms within three to five years. That's when 40 to 50 percent of the state's 86,000 teachers will be eligible for retirement, Mr. Bucholz said.

The accelerated degree program is geared toward finding teachers for classrooms in urban districts such as Detroit and rural areas of the Upper Peninsula and southern Michigan, Mr. Bucholz said.

While most of Michigan's vacancies are in those areas, the teacher shortage will be exacerbated by the looming retirements, Mr. Bucholz and Ms. Crane acknowledge.

“We also have a shortage of teachers for subjects such as hard math and science, ... robotics, and special education,” he said.

Other Michigan colleges as well as most states offer alternative routes to teacher certification, Ms. Crane said.

Marilyn Braatz, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said she is unaware of any accelerated programs in Ohio similar to the one at Siena Heights.

But a number of schools - Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, Defiance College, Bluffton College, and the University of Findlay among them - offer other nontraditional routes to teaching, Ms. Braatz said. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a major in the subject area to be taught or have a record of extensive work experience directly related to the subject area to qualify for such programs.

Teachers who complete the Siena Heights program are given a provisional teaching certificate and will be required to go back to college and complete the coursework necessary for a full teaching certificate, Ms. Crane said.

Siena Heights will select 15 students in May and the first class begins in June. The coursework consists of 33 semester hours. Siena Heights has 300 students in its traditional teacher-education program and graduates about 60 a year, Ms Crane said.

The initial field component will place students in classrooms four hours a day, with classes for the teachers-in-training held in the afternoon.

In the second session, students are in class all day and take evening courses with the potential to work as full-time substitutes in their area of expertise, Ms. Crane said.

“Most of our students are products of rural settings” and come from Monroe, Lenawee, and Hillsdale counties, Ms. Crane said.

To provide realistic training for teachers in urban schools, the Siena Heights program will include 60 hours of training in schools in Detroit, Toledo, and Jackson, Mich., she said.

“The methodology of working with kids is the same, regardless of where they live ... only the setting is different,” she said. “We're committed to giving them experience in rural and urban settings.”

Besides filling the need for teachers, the program allows nontraditional students the opportunity to discover whether teaching is something they want to do without committing four years from the start.

“We have 35 and 40-year-olds who have a lot of life-experience,” Ms. Crane said. “They need to get out there and try it.”

Siena Heights has 300 undergraduates in its traditional teaching program. The accelerated program requires a full-time commitment and consists of university courses and hands-on field work.

Among the requirements to apply is passing the Michigan Tests for Teacher Certification, which covers basic skills and content area in the field they wish to teach.

Siena Heights will offer the program at its Adrian campus, but could expand later to its branches, said college spokesman Debbie Myers.

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