Minnesota teachers vs. Teach for America

  • Article by: CLAIRE HILGEMAN
  • Updated: June 24, 2013 - 8:03 PM

It's really no battle. Teach for America teachers don't have the same skill set.

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Illustration: Educating children

Counterpoint

Not quite believing it, I reread the June 23 commentary “State Board of Teaching needs to hear our voices” several times. Now, in return, I hope that the authors, state Sens. Terri Bonoff and Branden Petersen, will be so kind as to hear my voice.

I am a teacher — a professional educator. I have held an active Minnesota teaching license for most of the past 31 years. I am so proud of that license and what it represents that it is framed and up in my office at the University of Minnesota. I currently work as an academic adviser at the U, and some of my students express their desire to become teachers. They have a long road ahead of them.

First, they need a four-year undergraduate degree in the subject they some day would like to teach. After earning their undergraduate degree, they apply for and, hopefully, are accepted to the College of Education and Human Development. They then complete a 15-month methods and experience course of study during which they learn the art of teaching. They cannot be accepted to this college unless they have at least 100 hours of documented experience working with students in a volunteer or paid capacity.

During their 15-month teaching sequence, they are required to work in several different educational environments under the direction of an experienced teacher. They learn how to write lesson plans, formulate the goals and objectives required by stringent accountability demands, learn how to decipher the voluminous standards requirements, and learn the heart of all excellent teaching — classroom management.

At the end of this period, students can take the state teaching exams and earn their license to teach in the state of Minnesota. At this point, they are just a few courses away from a master’s degree. Many students choose to complete those last courses as well and begin their teaching careers with master’s degrees. Some will eventually earn this advanced degree after taking the required continuing education courses needed to maintain their licensure.

After all of this, our new teacher will begin a job that will demand approximately 60 hours of work a week for about $28,000 to $36,000. a year. That is, if he or she can find a job. In case you have not heard, there are many applicants for every teaching opening in Minnesota, with the exception of special education and a few STEM fields in a few specific counties.

The article refers to the placing of “obstacles before talented and committed new teachers?” To whom does this refer? The students, like the ones highlighted in the article, with the four-year undergraduate degrees and a six-week training course? These young people are not teachers by any stretch of the imagination. They are undergraduates who are attempting to get into a highly competitive field on the cheap, both financially as well as experientially.

If these students who suddenly want to teach had ever thought about this as a valid career path for themselves, why did they not complete their undergraduate degrees and then apply for their 15-month teaching licensure program?

Do we really want the possibility of students in our most challenging educational environments being taught by people who are in the field because they couldn’t find a job after their graduation? Teaching is a calling and an art, not an afterthought.

I advise you to go to the source, Senators. Make an appointment with the director of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. Look at the teacher education program. Then compare this to the Teach for America protocol.

Better yet, spend a little time in classrooms taught by first-year instructors who have graduated from the U teaching licensure program and those trained by Teach for America. Certainly, if you are willing to state publicly that these teachers are comparable in skill and knowledge, you should be willing to spend time confirming this.

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Claire Hilgeman, of Eden Prairie, is a teacher and academic adviser.

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  • Teach for America deserves a chance

    Saturday June 22, 2013

    Sens. Bonoff and Petersen: It's not right to place obstacles before those taking an alternate path into the profession.

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