MSU changes Elementary Teacher Prep program

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — For years schools across the country have been dealing with a teacher shortage and the pandemic only made matters worse. But at Michigan State University they’re redesigning their program to help prepare students for life in the classroom.

Tonya Bartell, an associate professor and associate director for elementary programs at the university says the new changes won’t fix the teacher shortage but they could help. The program will give these prospective teachers the tools and support they need to better future generations.

A new transformation is coming to the College of Education’s Elementary Teacher Preparation Program.

“We thought about what was important to us and what we know is important for high-quality beginning teachers,” said Bartell.

After changes to the Michigan Department of Education requirements for teacher certifications, the College of Education thought it was also time for a change. The state is focusing on specific grade levels teachers can decide to teach, either Pre-K through 3rd grade or 3rd through 6th grade. Now MSU is doing the same.

Prospective teachers will also specialize in teaching English to students as a second language or those with special needs, something Bartell says is needed right now.

They’re also expanding their social justice courses for students hoping to become teachers.
“Know the content, know the pedagogy, and then also know something like how to support English learners, or how to support students with disabilities in that same setting,” she said. “Every room is different, and if we really want to support all kids and their learning then we need to understand all of those differences. So that you’re a more effective teacher for a broader range of students.”

Bartell says the new changes only strengthen their student’s skills in a time teachers are low in numbers.

“We’re preparing teachers to have a range of specialties and are prepared to work with a range of students and I think that that gives them the tools they need to be successful,” she said.

And she says it’s a small step in the right direction.
“I’m frustrated by a narrative and society that doesn’t seem to respect and support teachers enough to really recognize the importance of what they do. Our goal is really to support them in knowing not just anticipate the change but who they can reach out to for support and help and how they can navigate that train,” said Bartell.

The entire redefined program will officially begin in the 2021-2022 school year but some students are already taking some of the additional courses for the new changes.

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