(NewsNation) — The teacher shortage in the U.S. is critical, but a new alternative certification program is helping to fill the gaps and give those in search of a career change a new opportunity.
In his mid-40s, David Adler was ready to leave the food services industry to embark on a new opportunity. “The passion was starting to go away,” Adler said. “It’s a very difficult job responsible for a lot of people a lot of money. And I just wasn’t feeling fulfilled anymore.”
After coaching his daughter’s soccer team and doing volunteer teaching at his local synagogue in his spare time, he realized he was ready to be in the classroom full-time.
“I like working with young kids, I like teaching them about not just academically, but socially in life skills,” Adler told NewsNation.
He’s one of 54 participants enrolled in the University of Michigan’s Alternate Route to Certification program, where students are teaching in the classroom after just four months of courses and required classroom experience.
Jean Mrachko, who works with the program, says, “We’re bringing in people who have a whole world of experience outside of the classroom, So we have people who have been scientists who are now teaching science. So we have people who have been journalists who are now teaching English and so forth.”
A program like this couldn’t come at a better time, as a teacher shortage has districts across the country scrambling to fill classroom slots. According to one national survey by Education Week, nearly 75 percent of principals and district officials said this summer that the number of teaching applicants was not enough to fill their open positions.
“I don’t necessarily see alternative routes being sort of a panacea for all that ails the teacher shortage crisis in our nation right now. It is a better option, I believe, to help address the issue than to be issuing teacher certs or emergency permits to people with little to no training,” said Kendra Hearn, associate dean for undergraduate education at the University of Michigan.
But a solution may not be so simple. “Teachers who enter through alternative certification pathways receive less prep service, coursework preparation, and are less likely to have done student teaching,” said Tara Kini, director of state policy with The Learning Policy Institute. “And teachers who enter through alternative routes to certification have much higher turnover rates than those who enter through more traditional pathways.”
Kini says we need better pay and incentives for teachers as a whole.
Adler, who’s now teaching a room full of students at an elementary school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says he has no regrets … and there’s no sign he’s slowing down anytime soon. “I can’t believe I’m a teacher. Now. It happened pretty quick. You know, this wasn’t like something but it did. And so I you know, I could honestly say I’m probably the happiest I’ve been in a long time.”