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Tri-State school districts offer transition possiblities for second-career teachers

September 06, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Some Tri-State area school districts say they are turning to people trained in careers other than teaching to cope with a worsening teacher shortage.

"As teacher recruitment becomes more and more important, as the pool of qualified teaching applicants continues to shrink, we're enticing people in other professions to enter the teaching profession," said Carol Mowen, spokeswoman for Washington County Public Schools.

Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have each created, or are developing, state certification programs to help smooth the job transition into teaching, officials said.

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Pennsylvania has a fast-track program for teacher certification, said Lynn Lerew, director of human resources at the Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District. At Wilson College in Chambersburg, the Teacher Intern Program offers night and weekends courses so the prospective teacher doesn't have to resign his or her day job until it's time to begin student teaching, he said.

Also, Pennsylvania offers an emergency teaching certificate that allows people with a bachelor's degree to substitute teach, Lerew said.

"It gives them an opportunity to dip their big toe in the pool and see how they like teaching," he said.

Gary Sokol, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Jefferson County (W.Va.) School District, said he prefers to hire teachers with a background in education because they are trained in classroom management and other teaching skills.

But sometimes it's difficult to find certified teachers to fill positions in math, science and business. That's where so-called nontraditional teachers come in, he said.

For the first time ever, the Maryland State Board of Education will offer a free job fair geared to career-switchers, said spokesman Bill Reinhard.

For more information about the fair, scheduled Sept. 28 in Baltimore, contact Cindi Waugh at 410-841-2101.

Just this week, the state repeated a mantra it's been trying to get across for the past three years: that every school system in Maryland is facing teacher shortages, he said. The shortages have become critical in the areas of computer science, math, science and technology education, he said.

Second-career teachers, while they can help fill that gap, can also be a valuable addition to the school system, Mowen said.

"When people change careers and become teachers they bring that wealth of experience into the classroom," she said.

Second-career teachers can also explain to students from experience why the information they are being taught will be useful to them in their careers, she said.

"That's a bit of added credibility that is sometimes helpful to motivate students," she said.

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