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Changing Courses in Mid-Career

Posted on Wednesday, February 02, 2005


 

Working professionals who are interested in teaching can enter the education field through Maryland’s innovative Resident Teacher Certificate Program offered through Chesapeake College.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) launched this program to allow people with bachelor’s degrees to change careers and go into the teaching field. The Resident Teacher Certificate Program was designed to recruit liberal arts majors and people who want to change careers. With a growing shortage of teachers in Maryland, school systems needed a creative way to attract qualified people to teaching.

"This program is especially exciting here on the Shore because we’re able to tap into the unique ability of a community college which serves five of Maryland’s 24 school districts," said Assistant Superintendent for Certification John Smealie of MSDE. "We can only expect this program to grow on the Shore." Candidates must meet the following program entrance requirements: have earned a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education, hold a bachelor’s degree in the subject area of assignment, received an average of "B" or better in courses related to area of assignment, submit qualifying scores on teacher certification tests, and complete 135 clock hours of study prior to employment. Candidates attend a part-time training institute to prepare for the certification exams.

Teachers from the RTC Program have performed as well as traditionally trained teachers in Talbot County, according to John Masone, assistant superintendent of support services.

"We’re extremely pleased with our RTC teachers because they’re doing very well in our classrooms," Masone said. "We see this program as ideal for both our school system and the folks in our area who want to become teachers. The program gives working professionals a fast-track into the education field. Students can continue to work while they take training classes on the weekends. This has opened the field to many talented candidates who wouldn’t have been able to pursue a career in education previously because of family or employment commitments. The school system benefits because the program prepares candidates who are qualified to teach in specialty subject areas where we have the greatest need. "

Galena Middle School Principal Gayle Gill teaches the preparation courses at Chesapeake College, which are offered on the weekends. Of the 15 students who completed the training program in 2004 and sought teaching positions, Gill said 15 started teaching jobs with local school systems this academic year.

One of those students, Lonnise Gilley, is now teaching math and Spanish at Rock Hall Middle School in Kent County. After a successful career as an executive in high-tech telecommunications, Gilley said she was ready for a change.

"My years in the business world were nice for my bank account, but painful for my soul because I didn’t feel like I was contributing anything to the world. I felt like all of my achievements could be attributed to an excellent education. Education had such a positive influence in my life that I wanted to help someone else have the same experience," Gilley said. "The RTC Program gave me a chance to start a new career in teaching, and to feel like I’m giving something back. We learned about learning styles, lesson planning and teaching techniques. We also learned about the real-world challenges of being a teacher. That was very helpful because most of us came into the program with an idealistic view of teaching."

The screening process ensures that the teaching candidates are well versed in their subject areas and they master the education material presented in the RTC courses. But the challenges often lie in the student relations.

"The biggest challenge for these resident teachers is the same one that all new teachers face: discipline," said Gill. "I talk about it at length with the candidates and I’m sure that many of them think they won’t have discipline problems. Then they are shocked when they are face-to-face with a seventh-grader who doesn’t care about learning math."

Gill said such a challenge is tough enough for a 23-year-old recent college graduate, but can be even more frustrating for an older, more experienced person.

"Most people fresh out of college in their early 20s haven’t had many professional successes, but the 35 year-old business people who successfully ran companies are used to making things go their way," said Gill. "It’s quite a shock for them when they have to deal with a disrespectful, uncooperative 13-year-old in front of a classroom of other children."

In spite of the challenges, the resident teachers have a better retention rate than the teachers who enter the field through the traditional channels, according to Gill.

"I think that because these people are older and have more experiences, they put a lot of thought into their decision to enter this field. Most of them think about teaching for years before they enter the program. They feel like it is a calling and that it is something they were destined to do," Gill said. "That passion can carry them through the difficult times and keep them focused on helping the students."

People who have worked in service industries are especially well suited for the career switch to education. Several former ministers, for example, have been able to face the challenges of a classroom with relative ease, Gill said.

"Candidates who have spent a lot time of time working with people have generally learned how to listen and they’ve learned patience. They come to the program with two very important tools," Gill said. "Someone who isn’t used to the give and take, or who is accustomed to giving orders, may have to learn some new skills. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be successful teachers, but it means that they need to develop new ways of interacting with people."

Gilley said the rewards of teaching are just as she had hoped. "You have good days and bad days. When you help children learn and see them believe in their own abilities, it’s worth any frustration. I’m working harder than I ever did in the business world, but I’m fulfilled. I look forward to every day," she said.

For more information about the program and the entrance requirements, please call Dan Lessard at 410-758-2403, ext. 191, or send an e-mail to mdcert@qacps.k12.md.us. Recruitment is underway for the next cohort and the application deadline is February 28.

CUTLINE: Instructor Gayle Gill chats with teaching candidates Ray Diedrichs and Lonnise Gilley during the 2004 Resident Teaching Certificate Program session.

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