On Friday, June 12, 2015 the Minnesota Board of Teaching approved the Non-Conventional Emotional/Behavioral Disorders (E/BD) Licensure Program, a partnership between the University of Minnesota and Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District to give Education Assistants (EAs) the opportunity to earn their master’s degree in education. 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.
“I have said to a number of my colleagues that I don’t want to teach another traditional cohort because I think that this format should be the only format. The fact that they already have experience working with EB/D students really sets this program apart,” says Jennifer McComas, Ph.D., University of Minnesota special education professor. “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 E/BD students.”
The first cohort of 23 teacher-candidates from Northeast Metro 916, Intermediate 917, Minneapolis, Mounds View and North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school districts just completed their first year of the program and all are scheduled to graduate next year. Each candidate went through a rigorous application process whereby they had to gain admittance into the University of Minnesota graduate school, interview with their local school district, and meet the requirements of holding a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of one year of experience in a self-contained E/BD classroom.
The cohort is a combination of online instruction, traditional lecture format, and competency-based residency-type clinical experience with coaching, feedback, and assessment. They meet once a week for six hours for in-person instruction and discussion, which they can immediately use and apply in their classrooms.
Participants say that the frequent feedback and observation allows them to continuously improve and become better teachers. “It’s amazing how close you grow with the cohort. It’s been great to be able to take a lot of the philosophies directly back to the classroom. I see so many things now that I didn’t know before,” says Ryan Roth, teacher-candidate and Minneapolis Public Schools EA.
“This is a really demanding program with a high level of coaching and supervision, which you don’t receive in a traditional program,” adds McComas. “The students are already seasoned educators who know what it’s like and they are here because they want to make things better for their students. They are among some of the hardest working bunch of people I have ever met.”
The idea for creating a “grow your own” program began over three years ago with Megan McAllister, Northeast Metro 916 staffing coordinator, who identified a consistent shortage of E/BD teachers and championed the idea into becoming a reality. The Minnesota Board of Teaching provided conditional approval in April 2014 which allowed the cohort to kick-off in the fall and gather the necessary data to earn the board’s final program approval.
The program is held at Capitol View Center within Northeast Metro 916, providing a substantial discount compared to an on-campus program at the University of Minnesota. All participants are potentially eligible for a federal loan forgiveness program that covers the full cost of tuition after they have been employed as a teacher for five consecutive years at a qualifying school.
“My motivation for getting licensed was the kids,” says Megan Ahlers, teacher-candidate and Northeast Metro 916 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.”
Through a generous grant from The Bentson Foundation
, cohort participants have each received a $17,400 scholarship to cover tuition and cost of living expenses for the final year of the program.