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Teaching what they love without changing their majors

ASU program allows more students to become certified, addresses a statewide teacher shortage

Person writing school subjects on a blackboard

Students can become certified to teach their favorite school subject without changing majors.

August 17, 2016

Alyssa Beck-White loves math and couldn’t get enough of it in high school. At Arizona State University, she was able to specialize and study math in-depth, then add a teaching certificate and graduate with a bachelor’s degree, a teaching certificate and a career unfolding before her.

“By taking a lot of math classes in college, I became immersed in a really deep understanding of mathematics. I moved on from solving equations to writing proofs, and my understanding of the many layers of any math concept makes me a better teacher. Also, I now have a greater appreciation for what some students go through,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to teach, but I was really glad I could focus entirely on math at first and then add the program to become certified.” 

The Secondary Education Teaching Certificate, often referred to as the SED certification, is offered by Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and is a 30-credit program that allows students from majors outside of education to become certified to teach.

“People tend to assume that you have to be majoring in education to pursue a career in teaching,” said Jenna Kahl, director of student recruitment for Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, “which is why it’s essential to share the details of this alternative pathway to teaching.”

“This additional option for students to become certified will also increase the number of qualified teachers graduating from ASU, and that will help address the teacher shortage in Arizona,” said Wendy Jabbour, academic success coordinator for the SED certificate program.  

Jose Carlos Flores Ortega, or J.C. as most people call him, was very interested in politics. He always enjoyed following elections, current events and the political landscape. He also liked volunteering with young students and being a big brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of America for more than three years.

“I actually didn’t start out wanting to become a teacher,” he said. “I was in community college, and I started volunteering a lot with younger kids. I really liked it, and I had a lot of fun with them. After I came to ASU, I kept my political science major and was glad to learn about the SED option. I added the teaching certificate to my major, and it seemed like a great fit to be able to keep my major and keep learning and also become trained on how to teach and continue to work with young people.”

While students develop strong content knowledge in their subject area, certification courses focus on developing the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to successfully teach middle or high school students. Clinical experiences are required components of the certificate and allow students the opportunity to integrate learning and practice under the supervision of a highly-qualified mentor teacher.

“The program has grown tremendously over the last three years,” Jabbour said. “Students love the flexibility of it and like knowing they will have a very marketable skill set upon graduation.”

Students who complete the program will be issued an institutional recommendation for certification in Arizona. In addition to completing the teacher preparation program, graduates must also pass appropriate Arizona educator exams, which are the secondary subject knowledge exam and the secondary professional knowledge exam, in order to become certified.

Alisha Maxwell started volunteering with younger students at a public pool as a teenager. She eventually taught swim lessons and later became the head coach at the Ahwatukee Foothills YWCA.

“I loved working with kids, and I especially loved working with teens," Maxwell said. "That is such an exciting time in a person’s life. They are deciding who they are and who they want to be, and they are making mistakes and learning to be independent and responsible.”

Maxwell majored in biochemistry at ASU and said she truly enjoyed her classes and her major.

“I realized that my dream job was working with kids. That came to me while I was coaching kids to swim. I was excited about my major and about teaching kids in new and exciting ways, so when I learned about the SED program, I knew I was going to enroll. I had an awesome experience with my advisor, and the ASU staff members were great.  Everyone was really knowledgeable, and the process of adding the certificate was smooth.” 

Maxwell added, “Teaching was always in the back of my mind. But I have this passion for math and science, and I knew I wanted to have a challenging major in that area. So, I got to progress and succeed in some of those highly academic biochemistry classes and also become certified to teach.”  

Maxwell, who graduated in May, is preparing for her first teaching job at ASU Preparatory Academy. She said she looks forward to sharing her love of math and science with the next generation of students: “I want to inspire kids to work hard at these topics too.”

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