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Aquinas College program addresses urgent need for teachers

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Aquinas College has launched the Accelerated Master in Education (AME) program that will help address the urgent need for well-trained K12 teachers in the state and nationally. The program will prove especially helpful for rural and private schools to attract and retain teachers. 

According to a February 2020 report from Public Policy Associates, a “marked decline in the number of aspiring educators, mounting departures by experienced and early-career educators, and an educator workforce that lacks diversity” has resulted in a shortage of skilled teachers in Michigan. 

“The AME program was developed to facilitate adult career-changers who wanted to enter the teaching profession and to address the growing need of school districts’ to find qualified teachers,” said Susan English, dean of Aquinas College’s School of Education. “Traditional programs require individuals to step out of the workforce, but this program allows individuals to secure a paid position in the education field while completing coursework and clinical hours. We are especially eager to recruit and prepare under-represented, minority candidates into the field.”

Additionally, English says that the COVID-19 public-health crisis is straining school systems who have had to quickly alter their education models to virtual learning.

“I anticipate that the current pandemic will only exacerbate the teacher shortage since teachers nearing retirement may leave the field finding themselves overwhelmed, underprepared and underpaid for what is being expected of them,” English said.

The unique Aquinas program is conducted in cooperation with local school districts, so that individuals who qualify and hold a bachelor’s degree will be able to complete their initial teacher certification course work and clinical requirements in fewer than 18 months.

The AME program is modeled after “residency” programs that have been successfully implemented in other parts of the country. While working full-time in an approved school setting, candidates concurrently complete required evening and online coursework. 

Although intense, the program follows a cohort model which offers extensive support from faculty, AME peers and school district personnel. Year one of this three-year pilot, although interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak, has proven to be well-received by both AME participants and school administrators.

AME participants have praised the program, applauding its flexibility and responsiveness to participants’ situations. 

“I love how the program supported working full time. Since I was in the field, I could draw more connections to contribute to class discussions,” said Rachel Esser, elementary education candidate.

Participants say that faculty’s willingness to be flexible, adjusting instructional approaches and content based on the knowledge level of the class, is a clear strength.

“Discussions within class tend to be very good, and professors adapt almost weekly to teach what it is the class needs, not what they already know,” said Ken Jipping, secondary social studies teacher candidate.

For more information about the AME program at Aquinas College, go to https://www.aquinas.edu/education-graduate or call (616) 632-2800.