A&M International Searching for Good Teachers to Address Shortage

While the battle cry years ago called men and women to military service, a new call to service is being heard...for new teachers. The alarming shortage of teachers across the country has prompted Colleges of Education nationwide to develop new programs to increase teacher candidates.

At Texas A&M International University's College of Education, programs target new students, degree-holding individuals seeking a career change and even pre-college age students contemplating the teaching profession.

Dr. Rosa M. Vida, dean of the College of Education, said that the University has long been a leader in teacher education and certification and takes great pride in its programs and graduates.

"For over 30 years, we've educated, certified or graduated the majority of the area's teaching professionals. Along the way, we've earned the respect and praise of State monitoring agencies like the State Board of Education and the U.S. Secretary of Education. We take great pride in our work and the quality of our teacher graduates are the best indicator of that pride," Dr. Vida explained.

Vida said that recent efforts to encourage others into the profession with collapsed preparation times are a response to the tremendous need for educators.

"With retirement, mushrooming student populations and teachers leaving the profession, we're seeing a massive problem across the country...and here at home. In Texas, this year rural districts were unable to hire 19 percent of the anticipated number of teachers needed. Elementary bilingual/English as a Second Language positions were the most difficult to fill, with statewide results showing 21 percent of the 3,522 positions not being hired. Secondary math and foreign language positions were also hard to fill. Statewide results showed that 17 percent of the 3,434 math teaching positions and 13 percent of the 1,022 foreign language positions were not filled," she said.

In addition to traditional four-year preparation for an undergraduate degree, the University is seeing tremendous interest by degree-holding individuals who are seeking certification to enter the profession.

"In the past the certification process was lengthy. Today, it's possible for a teaching candidate to be certified in as little as 15 hours, or five courses, provided that the certification exam (ExCET) in the teaching field is satisfied. We offer certification in all areas, especially high-need areas. Current certification is offered in bilingual education pre-K-4 and 4-8; early childhood, pre-K-4; special education, all level; and content areas of social studies, language arts and math and science.

Vida said costs for certification have also been lowered with it possible to complete the certification program for approximately $800. Many school districts provide assistance with these costs, further reducing the student's expense.

She said that while the timeline and costs for teacher certification have both been reduced, the quality of preparation remains extremely high.

"These teacher certification candidates follow a very rigorous and demanding program and have to pass State exams before entering a classroom. It requires a strong commitment on the part of the teacher candidate and tremendous personal involvement by our faculty throughout the preparation," she said.

"I think the key is preparation and commitment. All our instruction is personalized. While the convenience of distance learning and internet learning would seem the easiest route to follow, we're committed to face-to-face instruction and faculty availability to the student. We're training future teachers here and cutting corners can't ever be appropriate," she said.

That commitment is strengthened by partnerships with local and area school districts that give the programs additional relevance to the special needs of districts, she noted.

"For example, the College is in partnership with the Texas A&M University System's Regents Initiative. The partnership is aimed at utilizing the collective resources of the A&M System to address educational issues of common concern. The multi-million dollar Initiative has assisted in the funding of a variety of programs State-wide that support teachers in education preparation and provide them with important professional development opportunities, " she said.

That commitment seems to paying off at A&M International.

A&M International's College of Education program was ranked 14th among 89 Texas colleges and universities having teacher preparation programs. The ranking is the highest of all nine of A&M System campuses.

While focused on current programs, the College is looking for the next generation of teachers as well.

"We've recently started looking to the next generation of teachers that will lead us into the future. We've identified Future Teachers in local and area high schools and hosted a special day-long Conference for them earlier this year. This summer, we'll launch a pilot Future Teachers Summer Camp which will offer them additional exposure to the profession. We plan to continue to keep in contact with them and encourage their interest in joining the teaching profession," she said.

For additional information on teacher certification programs at Texas A&M International University, please contact Dr. Cathy Sakta at 326.2691, visit offices in Killam Library 333 or email to cgsakta@tamiu.edu.

University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu