Student teachers advised to specialize skills - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Student teachers advised to specialize skills

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Posted: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 3:00 pm | Updated: 11:04 pm, Tue Jul 6, 2010.

Students hoping to enter a teaching career are being advised to specialize their skills in the wake of a tightening job market, according to one ASU expert.

In May, there were more than 1,000 new teachers on the market from Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, according to Michael Kelley, faculty member and division director of teacher preparation. The college issued 596 bachelor's degrees and 483 master's degrees with teacher certification.

"We're trying to get students to think more deeply about what they want to do and get them into the programs where there may be positions available," Kelley said. "The largest programs in the secondary level are English and history but what schools need are math and science teachers."

Those seeking employment were likely to find veteran teachers in line with them at interviews as the state's education funding was cut and districts across the state cut back on teacher ranks as they closed schools or raised class sizes.

"I think we've seen some fairly significant trends during this past year, not only within our own state, but impacting teachers across the nation. In the past, teaching was thought of as a recession proof job," Kelley said

But as states such as Arizona see revenue declining, budgets get cut, and often education spending is one of a state's top expenditures. Those cuts trickle down to individual school districts, which then starts reducing the teacher ranks, Kelley said.

ASU's staff is encouraging future teachers to get dual endorsements or certificates - such as one to teach special education - as well as their subject field.

To help students get the experience and skills they need, the college is piloting a new program in the fall that allows some to spend a year in a classroom student teaching, versus one semester.

An early childhood student-teaching year is taking place in the Scottsdale Unified School District. Kyrene Elementary School District will host some ASU students seeking elementary education degrees. The student-teachers will spend half their day at a school and the other half taking ASU classes. Because they'll start in the schools when the school year begins, they'll get the experience of setting up a classroom, meeting students for the first time and assessing their skills.

"We're trying to get our students the full range of experiences," Kelley said. "We believe our graduates in that program will come out, instead of being prepared as a novice teacher, as a second-year teacher because they'll have that prep work on a regular basis."

But if graduates still end up unemployed, Kelley recommends they get their substitute teaching certificate to get into a district.

"It tells something to the district personnel that they're willing to stay active," he said. "If you're there and showing significant good things with those kids and something does come available - a maternity leave opens up or another long-term sub position - that might be able to put them on a full contract."

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