High­lands of­fer­ing teacher train­ing al­ter­na­tive

Leaders hope fast track will help al­le­vi­ate short­age

The Taos News - - VALLE VISTA - By Robert Nott [email protected]­i­can.com This story first pub­lished in the Santa Fe New Mex­i­can, a sib­ling pub­li­ca­tion of The Taos News.

New Mex­ico High­lands Univer­sity is start­ing an on­line pro­gram that could fast-track the way stu­dents earn an al­ter­na­tive teach­ing li­cense.

Leaders of the Las Ve­gas school hope the cer­tifi­cate pro­gram will help draw more teacher can­di­dates, help­ing to al­le­vi­ate the state’s teacher short­age.

“Not only will this pro­gram help with pre­par­ing teach­ers to teach, but it will ad­dress the (ed­u­ca­tor) va­cancy num­bers and re­tain them in the long run,” said Vir­ginia Padilla-Vigil, dean of High­lands’ School of Ed­u­ca­tion.

New Mex­ico State Univer­sity’s Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion this year re­leased a re­port say­ing that at least 740 un­filled teach­ing jobs ex­ist in the state, mean­ing long-term sub­sti­tute teach­ers likely are fill­ing those roles. That re­port also said en­roll­ment is de­clin­ing in ed­u­ca­tor-prepa­ra­tion pro­grams around the state, which is low­er­ing the po­ten­tial pool for newly trained teach­ers.

The High­lands pro­gram, which may go into ef­fect as soon as March, al­lows non­tra­di­tional stu­dents who have earned bach­e­lor’s de­grees and have worked in cer­tain ca­reers to earn a teach­ing cer­tifi­cate.

For ex­am­ple, Padilla-Vigil said, a his­to­rian could use the High­lands pro­gram to get a job teach­ing so­cial stud­ies, and a vis­ual artist could do the same to teach art in the schools, as­sum­ing they have a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in those fields.

The pro­gram also would give stu­dents the op­tion of work­ing in the schools un­der a men­tor teacher as quickly as pos­si­ble or wait­ing to com­plete it be­fore do­ing so. State man­dates re­gard­ing al­ter­na­tive li­cen­sure pro­grams al­low those stu­dents to ap­ply for an in­tern li­cense to teach while en­rolled in a cer­tifi­cate pro­gram.

If those stu­dents choose to wait to com­plete the course be­fore en­ter­ing the class­room, they must then com­plete a 16-week stu­dent teach­ing process.

“They will get rig­or­ous sup­port and work with men­tor teach­ers and vir­tual in­struc­tional coaches,” Padilla-Vigil said. “They won’t be out there on their own; they won’t be thrown out there with­out any prepa­ra­tion.”

She said based on queries of in­ter­est, the col­lege ex­pects between 30 and 40 par­tic­i­pants by the spring.

Betty Pat­ter­son, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion-New Mex­ico, said High­lands has a “strong ed­u­ca­tion and teach­ing pro­gram, so we are con­fi­dent they would im­ple­ment this im­prove­ment on the ba­sic al­ter­na­tive li­cen­sure sys­tem.” She said putting those stu­dent teach­ers in class­rooms to work is a must.

New Mex­ico statutes of­fer sev­eral op­tions to earn an al­ter­na­tive teacher cer­tifi­cate, in­clud­ing sub­mit­ting an on­line port­fo­lio for re­view and tak­ing at least three hours of read­ing cour­ses and three New Mex­ico Teacher As­sess­ment ex­ams, among other mea­sures.

But an­other union pres­i­dent said that in­creas­ing the num­ber of teach­ers with al­ter­na­tive li­censes will not pro­vide a long-term so­lu­tion to the teacher va­cancy prob­lem.

“His­tory shows us al­ter­na­tively li­censed ed­u­ca­tors re­quire more in­ten­sive and longer-term sup­ports, do not re­main in the class­room for as long as tra­di­tion­ally cer­ti­fied ed­u­ca­tors and do not achieve the level of knowl­edge, prac­tice and ped­a­gogy a four-year pro­gram can achieve,” said Stephanie Ly, pres­i­dent of the state’s Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers union.

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