With the education system in need of more teachers, Fort Hays State University developed the Transition to Teaching (T2T) program as a way to fill teaching vacancies in school districts through an alternate route to teacher licensure.
"We don't feel like it's a shortcut to our traditional program," said Dr. Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education and Technology. "We feel like it's reaching out to a population of people that probably could not afford to quit jobs and relocate to Hays to take courses. It is a population who otherwise would not have been able to be in a classroom."
The program includes recruiting and training mid-career professionals seeking a career change. The T2T program uses the restricted license and has developed an online professional education curriculum meeting all of the Kansas Professional Education Standards.
This alternative licensure program is designed for people with a content bachelor's degree who lack a teaching pedagogy background. It allows for direct access to the full responsibility of a classroom teacher, while concurrently learning through graduate level education coursework.
"Their backgrounds are very rich in content, both through coursework and experiences, but they lack the professional education classes," said Mercer.
The program is geared toward people who are typically hired to begin teaching jobs in August. Everyone is required to take an induction course the summer prior to beginning the school year.
The requirements to get into T2T are an undergraduate or graduate degree or equivalent course work in the chosen content area, at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA (Graduate School requires 2.5 GPA on the last 60 hours) and verification that a school district has made an offer for employment in the content area for which the restricted license is sought. The program accommodates secondary (grades 6-12) or all licensure levels (P-12). Currently it does not address early childhood or elementary teaching licenses.
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Participants are required to pass a content test by the end of the first year of teaching. By the end of three years, the pedagogy test, "Principles of Learning and Teaching," must be passed. Appropriate progress must be made each year while attaining a 2.5 GPA in specified courses and within the 26 graduate hours in education, including six hours of practicum with at least "C" grades.
During the three-year program, participants will have a restricted teaching license. Once the program is completed, they are eligible to apply for a two-year conditional teaching license.
Amanda Young, a Bel Aire graduate student in her first semester of the program, said its been helpful for her while she gets a teaching license for the first time.
"It really prepared us for major things that we needed to have established when we went into the experience," said Young.
A master of science in education can be obtained by applying 24 hours from the T2T program towards the degree. An additional 14 hours of core courses are required.
Several other schools have similar alternative licensure programs, including Pittsburg State University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University. FHSU is working collaboratively with WSU as an outgrowth of a Kansas State Department of Education grant.
The program is rapidly growing. Kerry Schuckman, FHSU licensure officer, said she is already getting calls for next year and expects around 70 additional participants to the 117 currently in the three-year program.
Young said the most beneficial thing has been that she can always contact someone to help solve her problems. People in the Department of Education, she said, are "compatible and on the same page."
"The faculty and staff are completely behind the program and that's what makes it so successful," she said.
For more information on the T2T program, contact Schuckman at (785) 628-4542 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.