Alternative teaching offers opportunity for grad students

By Sobia Siddqui

While jobs in many career fields are getting scarce, the need for teachers has only increased. That’s why alternative teaching certification programs are an option for students who are interested in teaching and have at least a bachelor’s degree.

“There’s been a number of alternative programs around the country because of the need for more teachers,” Dr. Elden Barrett, professor of curriculum and instruction and the coordinator of the Strickland Scholars program, said.

Alternative certification programs open the door to teaching for those students who have not majored in education but are interested in a teaching career.

Baylor graduate students have the option of applying to Baylor’s School of Education’s Strickland Scholars program or enrolling into the alternative teaching program at McLennan Community College.

These programs give a viable avenue for teaching to students who realize their desire to teach late in their collegiate career.

“The problem we have is supply and demand — we don’t have enough teachers,” Barrett said. “We have to have somebody in the classrooms.”

Ronnie Massey, the assistant director of the teaching certification program at McLennan Community College, said students interested in the program must have graduated from an accredited college or university with a bachelor’s degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

“The program is broken up, and you have to take a pedagogy professional responsibility class,” Massey said. “You also have to take a content class to be hired.”

Massey also said students in the program must be qualified under the No Child Left Behind Act. Verification of qualification can be obtained through the student’s transcript or examination.

According to the Rand Education website, The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandates that states set minimum requirements that will ensure incoming teachers are more than qualified for the position they fill.

“We train you in pedagogy, where that’s of course the art of teaching. You learn good teaching methods,” Gutierrez said.

After the pedagogy and content classes, McLennan Community College also requires students in the program to go through a year of internship in which students obtain a paid position in an accredited school and are paid the same beginning salary as other teachers.

Students in the Strickland Scholars program also have to pass their content and pedagogy exams while getting certified.

Strickland Scholars students are required to have a minimum GPA from their undergraduate work, which is a 3.0 in Baylor, as well as three reference letters, and satisfactory scores on the GRE as well as the TExES exam in the content teaching field.

“We have a very unique program with a lot of field experience. Our teachers leave here well prepared for school well prepared for the job,” Dr. Larry Browning, the Chairman at the School of Education, said.

Under the Strickland Scholars program, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in an education-related field may apply for full-time paid positions in elementary, middle or high schools or work for one semester in a non-paid teaching position.

Because the Strickland Scholars program is offered by Baylor instead of a community college, it also gives students the option of attaining a master’s degree in education while they are working toward getting certified.

“We get really high qualified students and candidates that want to be teachers,” Barrett said. “We’ve had excellent success with the scholars we’ve had over the years.”

Students accepted in the Strickland Scholars program must complete two summers of post-graduate work, which includes classes in pedagogy and content.

The difference between McLennan’s program and Baylor’s program is the cost and degree. McLennan’s program is cheaper and gives students a certification quickly. Baylor’s program costs more, but students come out with a Masters degree in Education. Both programs give field experience.

“They’re [the students] able to teach on a probationary certificate; that’s what alternative programs do,” Barrett said.

Through this field experience, graduates who have not majored in education learn to work in a classroom setting and begin to teach the subject matter in which they majored.

According to the National Center for Education Information’s website, 58 percent of current teachers believe bringing individuals from other careers into teaching would improve the education system.

“We’re providing more options for individuals, and we’re providing good teachers for the school district,” Gutierrez said.

Massey said the program at McLennan Community College has 93 interns in 37 different school districts.

“They bring a lot of real life experience in terms of what they’ve done, and where they’ve been, and different things they have accomplished,”Massey said.

According to the National Center for Education Information’s website, the primary reason teachers teach is because they want to help young people learn and develop.

“You’re using the background that you have learned and attained to be that teacher,” Gutierrez said.