Bismarck News

Educators voice concern over faster route to teacher certification

A recent survey says teacher shortages are worsening around the nation. North Dakota along with many other states have been trying out alternative teacher certifications to try and help these shortages.

This alternative teacher license has raised a lot of questions to how well it prepares these up and coming teachers.

In North Dakota, if you want an alternative teaching license you have to have at least a bachelor's degree. You must also have an employment offer from a public North Dakota school in order to apply for one.

However, some experts are saying that 3 fewer years of education means less experience in the classroom. 

I sat down with a teacher that has a 4-year degree and one that has an alternative teaching license to see what they thought.

"I didn't essentially go to school to be a teacher. I went to school to be a nurse and when I graduated I was actually a nurse," says CNA & Medical Related Careers Instructor, Sarah Berreth. 

Like most people in life, Berreth decided to change her career path. She is now a Medical Related Careers Instructor at the Bismarck Career Academy. Instead of going back to school for another 4 years to become a teacher, she decided to do a 1-year gap course that gave her an alternative teacher certification. She broke down the process for me.

"I had to have at least 8,000 hours of experience in her specialty field and once I got hired here--to bridge the gap because I don't have an undergraduate degree in teaching," says Berreth. "We are issued a preliminary license for 2 years and within those 2 years complete a bridge course called transition to teaching which essentially will teach me how to teach."

Berreth says during that year she learned how to create syllabuses, classroom management, curriculum development and assessments, and how to interact with kids.

This has raised a lot of questions as to how well it prepares these up and coming teachers.

North Dakota United President, Nick Archuleta says, "We know that superintendents and school boards perhaps want different routes by which they can license teachers, so they can people in front of those kids as soon as possible."

Archuleta, whose been an educator for years, says by not going through traditional training these teachers are missing out on a lot of essential practice.

"A traditionally trained teach would take courses in child psychology or adolescent psychology, learn about brain development and age appropriateness for different lessons and actually have a practicum in the field as well as a student teaching experience, so they are well trained by the time they get into the classroom," says Archuleta.

Archuleta tells me that the average person graduating with an education degree in North Dakota, graduates with about $28,000 in debt. He says these degrees mean a lot to teachers.

"What many of our members have expressed to us is that by allowing many different forms of licensure that cheapens the degree they worked hard and paid for," says Archuleta. "And frankly, it doesn't do much to build the profession."

"You know we weren't just picked off the street and given to anybody, you still have to meet qualifications and I had to show I do bring in value and knowledge in an area of expertise," says Berreth.

Berreth admits that teachers with those 4-year degrees have a lot more background knowledge than she does, but says with any profession nobody is going to know everything right off the bat.

"You know my path I can bring in a lot of value in my experience to it so you can't discredit that because I haven't had the degree. It was a really hard learning curve, Berreth says. "But honestly, that's what I said when I graduated from nursing school and my first year being a nurse was a really hard learning curve. And it would be interesting to hear from a 4-year teaching degree...that first year was probably a really hard learning curve."

Berreth told me each day she learns something new from her students and continues to grow as a teacher. She also told me most of the teachers at the career academy got their teacher licenses from an alternative route.

There are also 170 districts that have applied for the teacher loan forgiveness program we have in here in North Dakota. On average, 18% of all public school teachers in the 2015-2016 school year reported that they had entered the teaching profession through an alternative certification program.

Some of the biggest teacher shortage areas in our state are science, business technology, agriculture, and technology and engineering.

For more information about alternative teaching licenses in North Dakota, click here. 


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