Did you know that Virginia’s Community Colleges run the largest alternative teacher licensure program in the commonwealth? Nearly 1,000 adults have completed the Career Switchers program to go into the classroom to teach in critical shortage areas.
And, the program prepares more instructors in English as a Second Language than all of the other teacher education programs combined. But the need is still great – in Prince William County alone, 111 English as a Second Language teachers have been hired in the past three years.
What is it?
Career Switchers – see more about them at EducateVA.com - offers a fast-track to the classroom for adults with a bachelor’s degree and five years of work experience. The 16-week hybrid course (using both distance education and Saturdays in the classroom at regional locations across the state) is a workforce program that helps working adults prepare for a second career in the classroom.
More than 140 prospective teachers are completing the first level of the program this spring, and will be seeking posts in school systems with a one-year provisional license.
Accelerated and challenging, students get 36 hours of live instruction, online time that equals 180 contact hours, and a field placement of 40 hours. During the second year, new teachers (141 of them this year) continue to receive support from the Career Switchers program as they get on-the-job training teaching in a school and continue with 20 hours of weekend instruction.
Who is it helping?
Students in the commonwealth are the ultimate beneficiaries of this program, learning from qualified teachers in math, science foreign language and English. Adults seeking a second career and the school divisions in the commonwealth also reap rewards.
Where is it offered?
The classes are held regionally through community colleges across Virginia. Much of the coursework is done through distance education, but prospective Career Switchers also get 30 hours of classroom instruction time in the introductory levels of the program, and meet on Saturdays for classroom instruction.
What are we learning from it?
Virginia still critically needs teachers at the secondary level in a variety of fields, particularly in math and science, foreign languages, and English at the secondary school level. The need is particularly great for English as a Second Language teachers. Recent Career Switcher Anna Maria Machosky, teaching in Prince William County, was an advertising executive before deciding to become a Career Switcher. She was quoted in Bull Run Now:
I found great satisfaction in advertising, but it didn’t make a difference in people’s lives. I need to feel like I am giving something back.
What is its future?
Director Julia Tucker Lloyd says it’s telling that a community college workforce program is serving a post-grad market. The Career Switcher program may already be the best alternative licensure program in the state. “Our goal is to have the best teacher education program, period, in the state,” she says.