This time last year, aspiring teachers in the 2018 Hillsdale College graduating class would have had a difficult time finding work. But Teachers for Tomorrow has changed that.
Sonja Bindus, head of early childhood education and director of the Mary Randall Preschool, is guiding students through the process of applying to and studying with Teachers for Tomorrow, a teacher certification program helping prospective teachers obtain their certification. Teachers for Tomorrow was approved in Michigan in August 2017.
“This program expedites the certification process for teacher candidates and provides school districts with qualified teachers,” Bindus said in an email. “After the teacher has been hired, Teachers for Tomorrow continues professional support and education for three years while the candidate is working in a classroom.”
The program costs $5,500 and is offered online, Bindus said. It also requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 2.95. Teachers of Tomorrow operates in 11 states: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, with temporary operation in Ohio, Virginia and California according to Bindus.
Fourth-grade teacher Erin Wonders ’18 completed the program and gave an informational speech about her experience in early November. The program helps graduates what she called the “social aspects” of teaching, like classroom management. Wonders said the program is flexible, with coursework for the program completed online and taking just under 100 hours in total.
The program is flexible in other ways, too.
“You can start applying for jobs the second you get accepted into the program,” Wonders said.
Although Hillsdale College has an education program, it does not include the certification needed to be allowed to teach in many public schools. Because of this, many graduates end up teaching at a private or charter school.
“These schools — mostly private and charter classical schools — want Hillsdale College students because they are broadly educated (the core curriculum), they know their content (challenging majors and minors), and they have a disposition to serve,” said Daniel Coupland, chairman of education, in an email. “That said, some of our graduates want to work in schools — mostly traditional public schools — that require state certification.”
Maria Theisen ’18 was one graduate who did not obtain a teaching certification. Because most public schools require a certification to teach, she said, it made searching for a job more difficult
“My job search involved many nights scouring LinkedIn for job applications that did not require a teaching certificate,” Theisen said in an email. “I heavily relied on the Classical Schools Job Fair, as well as Handshake, as I knew those schools were familiar with Hillsdale students and their lack of certification.”
And although Hillsdale gave her a good education, Theisen spent most of the summer after graduation studying teaching techniques.
“Being an English major taught me the lessons I wanted to teach, but did not provide me lessons in classroom management, curriculum development, and other elements that being a teacher requires beyond teaching each day,” Theisen said.
Teachers for Tomorrow help fill in the gaps for students.
“The only certification option in the state of Michigan until recently was to complete a post-baccalaureate certification program (sometimes known as an “alternative” certification program),” Coupland said.
But these programs can take up to two years to complete and be fairly expensive, Coupland said.
“With focus and dedication, a Hillsdale student can now graduate in May and have state certification by the start of the school year in August,” Coupland said.