For 23 education assistants (EAs) at Northeast Metro 916, Intermediate District 917, Minneapolis, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale and Mounds View school districts, they are one step closer and only two years away from earning their teaching license. Thanks to a new partnership between Northeast Metro 916 and the University of Minnesota, this new accelerated licensure program allows EAs who hold a bachelor’s degree and have one year of experience in a Level IV Emotional/Behavioral Disorder (E/BD) classroom to earn their master’s degree in education with an E/BD licensure.
The first class kicked off on September 3, 2014, after over two years of development, including enduring many obstacles such as the rigorous approval process from the Minnesota Board of Teaching. The concept was developed by Megan McAllister, Northeast Metro 916 staff coordinator, who identified a consistent shortage of E/BD teachers and championed the idea into becoming a reality.
“The program is designed to be extremely rigorous and supportive so that the candidates not only successfully complete the program, but go on to be exceptional teachers who stay in the field of teaching students with emotional or behavior disorders,” says Jennifer McComas, Ph.D., University of Minnesota special education professor who worked alongside McAllister to help develop the program.
The two-year intensive program includes 36 credits, half of which come directly from work experience, as well as 20 weeks of student teaching, which is much higher than a typical licensure program.
“A unique and intentional design feature of the program is that the assignments are created to be a natural part of what already goes on in the classroom,” explains instructor Rebecca Neal, Ph.D. “In this way, the program complements the candidates’ full-time work schedules and it really becomes an inclusive part of their work day, rather than an additive process. By the end of the program, each EA candidate will be ready to have a classroom of their own.”
While all of the EAs come from different backgrounds, they are united in their passion for special education and the desire to become a licensed teacher to serve E/BD students. The fact that they already have experience working with Level IV E/BD students is really what sets this program apart from typical licensure programs, where candidates sometimes have no prior experience working with the student population.
“My motivation for getting licensed was the kids,” says Megan Ahlers, Bellaire Education Center EA. “The students have helped teach me how much I love to teach. I have been in the district for five years and it has been a very rewarding experience.”