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Classes aim to reduce teacher shortage

June 04, 2008

An expanding population. Low retention rates. New educational requirements. These are some of the factors that influence the teacher shortage in Arizona.

What’s especially needed are teachers in subjects such as math, science and special education.

ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership is addressing the shortage in the state by expanding educational offerings to the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Students who are interested in pursuing an education degree to become a teacher can take classes downtown this fall semester.

“We’ve established a venue to bring educational programs downtown to focus on urban, K-12 education needs,” says Heather Carter, director of Education Downtown.

The College of Teacher Education and Leadership will offer undergraduate and graduate programs downtown.
Undergraduate students who are interested in becoming teachers can take all of their lower-division courses at the Downtown Phoenix campus. General education and liberal arts courses are offered through the School of Letters and Sciences.

“We are prepared to serve generations of teachers through robust offerings in science, languages, social sciences and humanities,” says Frederick C. Corey, director of the School of Letters and Sciences.

Those future teachers can practice their skills in a special program for ASU students in the Madison School District. They will receive close supervision, experience in learning how to teach and plenty of opportunities to work with students.

“We have had existing partnerships for a number of years in the Madison and Osborn school districts, and we are looking forward to working with students downtown – putting them in schools where they really become much appreciated as future teachers,” says Mari Koerner, dean of the College of Teacher Education and Leadership. “Offering the programs which have produced successful teachers for years is a real advantage that ASU has. We can offer programs that we know work at different campuses. We know there are many advantages to being immersed in schools while students are taking their coursework.”

Education students who complete “district-based” teacher preparation typically continue in their teaching career longer than students trained in a more traditional program.

“They have been trained in the district environment, so they know the nuances of what it is like to go into a school,” Carter says. “Madison is an elementary undergraduate program where they leave with a full English as a Second Language endorsement. That is very marketable.”

Undergraduate degrees are not the only avenue to becoming a teacher. Many College of Teacher Education and Leadership students are pursuing teaching as a career via the Induction, Masters and Certification route now offered at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Programs such as Teach For America and Phoenix Teaching Fellows recruit highly dedicated people who have a bachelor’s degree to work as paid teachers in low-income schools. These teachers enter the classroom on an intern teaching certificate, while they simultaneously are enrolled in a teacher preparation program.

“Our partnership with Teach For America is award-winning, capturing both the ‘Best of the West’ award for higher education and the ASU Presidential Award for Social Embeddness,” Carter says.

One of the unique opportunities with this program is that students earn a master’s degree in elementary education, secondary education or special education while simultaneously working on state certification requirements.

Programs such as this require extensive support and mentoring.

“The first year of teaching is so challenging,” Carter says. “Teaching is usually done in isolation. It’s one adult with 30 kids sitting in front of you. You need mentoring and support systems in your first year. We know this is important, so the College of Teacher Education and Leadership is providing both university preparation classes, and supervision and mentoring, for new teachers in Phoenix in their own classrooms. The College of Teacher Education and Leadership will have 18 full-time faculty out in the K-12 classrooms supporting intern teachers in the fall.”

Programs such as Teach For America and Phoenix Teaching Fellows are ideal for people who have their bachelor’s degree and are hired by school districts to be teachers.

Koerner says that because ASU and the College of Teacher Education and Leadership are committed to preparing teachers for the classrooms of Arizona, the university is able to offer many possibilities to students who are downtown.

Students also can work toward their education master’s degree in the Osborn School District via the Masters and Certification program. This program allows teachers to work toward certification within one year in a district-based environment, then interview for a teaching job and finish their master’s degrees.

“This is a fast-track program, whereby students have the luxury of studying to be a teacher in a professional development program before they take on the full responsibility of teaching,” Carter says.  

For additional information about education opportunities at the Downtown Phoenix campus, send an e-mail to