April 06, 2009

Program offers new teaching career possibilities

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Professionals with an undergraduate degree and five years experience in agriculture, business, fashion merchandising, food and nutrition, health careers, or industrial technology can begin new careers as high school and middle school teachers through a 24-hour certification program offered by Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“In this age, where people are in a regrouping and retraining mode, it’s great that the practical skills they have developed combined with our coursework and practicum can put them back in the workplace to serve a whole new population,” said Elizabeth W. Freeburg, associate professor of workforce education and development, who directs the graduate program, which includes this program.

“While other state universities offer alternative certification in some of these areas, SIUC is the only Illinois institution that does so in all -- including health careers.”

Because those enrolling already have bachelor’s degrees, they take graduate-level courses, a fact that could prove helpful immediately or later on.

“These courses count toward a master’s degree,” said program coordinator Tasha L. Coney.

“With just a few more courses and a research project or thesis, these students would have a master’s degree from one of the top 10 programs recommended by U.S. News and World Report.”

Employment prospects for program graduates look good, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Statistics, which says that qualified vocational teachers are in demand not just in high schools but in middle schools, too. The bureau has predicted a combined loss of 10 percent of such teachers between 2006 and 2016 as aging secondary school teachers in the field begin to retire.

Professionals interested in participating in the program first must find secondary schools willing to hire them and provide mentors. Fortunately, this has not proved difficult for the 20 students currently enrolled.

“The schools are taking a chance on hiring teachers who don’t have the Illinois Type 09 teaching license, but they want those practical skills,” Coney said.

“Someone who has actually worked in the field and is a little bit older can enhance the students’ education, can answer those questions, ‘Why do I need to study this? Why is this important?’ from experience. There’s also the networking that someone who’s been in the work world for five years can bring to the class. It’s a win-win situation.”

After admission, Coney will work with the new graduate students to design a program of study that fits each one’s knowledge and experience as reflected in their college transcripts and resumes. Students can take courses at SIUC, community colleges (if they have courses that meet the University’s criteria) or online. In most cases, they will finish the coursework within a year, though the timetable can flex to meet individual needs.

The program will continue to take applications for fall semester until July 15. Those seeking admission must apply to both the University’s Graduate School and to the Department of Workforce Education and Development. Find guidelines for this procedure on the Web at http://wed.siu.edu/Public/Graduate/ms/ms_application.php. Applicants also must pass the Illinois Certification Testing System’s basic skills test, consisting of 125 multiple-choice questions in reading comprehension, grammar, writing and mathematics plus a short writing assignment. For details on this test, visit http://www.icts.nesinc.com. A detailed resume documenting relevant work experience completes the process.

For more information, contact Coney by e-mail at tconey@siu.edu or by phone at 618/453-3321.