College eases teacher training

New degree program guarantees transfer of education credits

October 15, 2001|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel Community College just made it easier to become a teacher in Maryland.

Responding to a statewide shortage of teachers, the college created an associate's degree in teaching that guarantees the credits will transfer to the teacher education program of any four-year college or university in Maryland.

The college's board unanimously approved the 64- credit-hour program last week.

"We're just delighted," said Sharyn Doyle, supervisor of teacher personnel for the Anne Arundel County school system. Every year, Doyle said, she finds herself chasing too few teachers for too many open jobs.

"People changing careers can now go to the community college and pick up much of the coursework they need for an education degree, instead of having to go to graduate school, which can be very expensive," she said.

The program began this fall, with potential teachers taking their first two years of elementary education courses at the community college. Students can then make a seamless transfer to any Maryland college or university - public or private - to finish their training. The institutions also are working on a deal to include secondary education courses.

Anne Arundel Community College moved quickly after the Maryland Higher Education Commission gave the green light for this type of program in June.

"Anne Arundel Community College is way ahead of the game," Doyle said.

For years, potential teachers have been frustrated by problems with transferring their community college credits to other schools. Many four-year teacher education programs would not accept credits earned at the state's 16 community colleges. That difficulty discouraged some students from pursuing teaching as a career, said state Assistant Superintendent Ron Peiffer.

"Any barrier that we can remove for a teacher candidate is going to help get more teachers in the classrooms," he said.

The community colleges and four-year teaching colleges worked for two years to reach an agreement that guarantees the credit transfer, saving potential teachers thousands of tuition dollars and perhaps a year or more of school.

The state estimates that over the next decade Maryland school systems will need to hire as many as 8,000 teachers each year, primarily to fill positions left by retiring baby boomers, officials said.

In Anne Arundel County this year, school officials persuaded many veteran teachers to postpone their retirements by offering generous raises. The school system also gave an average $1,500 signing bonus to new hires.

But with tighter budgets forecast for the next few years, and an increase in the high school student population, officials fear a worsening teacher shortage.

"We're trying to get teachers out into the work force more quickly to fill these vacancies," said Debbie McDaniel-Shaughney, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel Community College.

The college has worked closely with the school district to create excitement about teaching. Teachers at county schools often visit the college to speak to students.

"Everyone is strongly encouraged to teach in Anne Arundel County," McDaniel-Shaughney said.

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