Coming in fall 2021, Clarion University will offer an online secondary post-baccalaureate program for people who have a degree but wish to add a teacher certification to improve their job prospects.
"We have post-bac programs now, but they are face to face. Post-bac programs generally require 30 credits of work within a program, depending on a person's undergraduate degree. An online version will go a long way to accommodating non-traditional students and career changers," explained Dr. Gwyneth Price, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services.
Dr. Jesse Haight, associate professor of education at Clarion University, said many individuals wish to add the teacher certification and are certain they can handle the workload and competencies necessary to complete it. However, they cannot commit to the time or money necessary for an in-person mode of education, especially if it means giving up employment for a long period.
"If we can offer the program to prospective students in an online format, they will be able to continue to work (until they must complete their student teaching) while earning certification," Haight said. "It will also open doors for people in terms of their geographic location. If coming to campus is a challenge, this online post-bac program will eliminate that challenge."
This option also comes at an important time, as there is a huge demand for teachers even in areas that were once a tough market for a teaching degree.
"I began at Clarion in 2012 and at that time the term 'teacher shortage' was not associated with Pennsylvania. That is no longer the case," Haight said.
According to the Learning Policy Institute's September 2016 report "A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.," there is a teacher shortage in the United States.
The shortage hasn't been helped by the pandemic.
In a survey on "Parents' and Teachers' Views on Reopening Schools" conducted in August and September of 2020, it was revealed that "One in three teachers say the pandemic has made them more likely to leave teaching earlier than they planned."
"The pandemic is exacerbating the teacher shortage. If we can lessen the challenges/barriers to teacher certification then we can help more people join this incredible field," Haight said. "I am seeing that the traditional field of education is going to be fundamentally changed. We need to be attracting as many worthy candidates to this profession to do the work that is essential in all or our communities."
The good news is that the pandemic hasn't scared off newcomers to the teaching field.
"Another reason we see so many people looking to get into teaching after college is that the job market for their original degree is not as plentiful," Haight said. "I have worked with many returning students who have degrees in History or English and they don't quite know in which direction to take that. They find that they can still work in their original degree, which is their passion, while finding employment in the teaching field."
Haight said if the pandemic has shown us anything, it's that teaching will always be an essential career for society.
"No matter the economic or societal landscape, there will be a market for educators," he said.
The choice to attend Clarion is a sound one since it's already ahead of the technology curve – another teaching necessity brought on by the pandemic.
"We already have a strong technology foundation in our teacher certification programs. This pandemic has caused us all to alter our delivery; we are now modeling technology pieces in our courses," Haight said.
Clarion professors have found ways to collect student work and give feedback via video submissions, and become more connected with our students through individual Zoom meetings or other tools.
"If those connections are not made then students can feel isolated or marginalized. That cannot happen if a teacher is going to be successful, no matter the level that you are teaching," Haight said.
None of this should be surprising for those familiar with Clarion's history of excellence in preparing teachers.
"We can offer a nationally accredited, top-notch teacher certification that is second to none," Haight said.
Interested in turning your Bachelor's degree into a teaching certificate? Apply now for the Online post-baccalaureate program. Or contact the Education Office at 814-393-2404 or email Schoolofeducation@clarion.edu.