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Vermont Program Turns Professionals Into Teachers

The Associated Press

JERICHO, Vt. (AP) — A program aimed at people changing professions mid-career is turning out licensed teachers in eight months by giving them intensive experience in the classroom with mentors.

This year, 45 students are expected to graduate from the Teacher Apprenticeship Program at Champlain College. It's the largest class in the program's 12-year history.

Director Scott Mosher says the program offers a fast track to a teaching license for mid-career professionals who often have a mortgage and family responsibilities.

"If they're going to make a career change, it needs to be something that they can do quickly," Mosher said. This program fills that gap, he said.

Andy Grab was laid off last June after about 30 years at IBM. He had enjoyed coaching kids in sports and being involved in training sessions at IBM, so he had the idea of becoming an educator. Now, thanks to the program, he's a licensed teacher less than a year later.

Grab, who has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and a master's in business administration, took a big hit in his salary — earning 40 percent of what he once did — but says it's worth it to do something he's passionate about.

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"I'm not working for stockholders anymore. I'm kind of looking forward to engaging with kids and do something a little more worthwhile in life," he said. This spring, he's been working as a substitute teacher at the St. Albans Town Technical Center. He has a full-time job lined up there next fall teaching middle school science and math.

The program started in 2002 in the Essex Junction school district as a way to develop new teachers by offering an alternate way for professionals to get into teaching, Mosher said. It expanded to a regional program and then became statewide in 2010, accredited by the Vermont Agency of Education.

The Teacher Apprenticeship Program became part of Champlain College last July, which allowed for more resources and growth, he said.

Tuition is $10,900. Eighty percent of students go on to teach and work in a school system the next year, Mosher said.

The students, at an average age of 35, attend about 15 seminars at Champlain and spend much of their time student teaching with a mentor. That differs from some traditional programs in which students study education and later become student teachers.

"It's very much a learn-and-apply model," Mosher said.

That appealed to Carly Brown, 28, who decided she wanted to teach after earning a master's of science in plant biology from the University of Vermont.

"I had just come out of two years of school and had been through a lot of schooling so the eight months was great," said Brown, who had taught high school science in the Peace Corps in Kenya.

Mentor teachers also gain from the experience, said Brown's mentor, Katy Abbott, a science teacher at Mount Mansfield Union High School in Jericho.

"It just makes me more intentional about my teaching, and it just keeps me current with practices that are happening," Abbott said.

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