Expanded certification pathway to help ease teacher shortages


Exacerbated by the pandemic, dire teacher shortages are becoming a major obstacle to keeping schools open in Michigan. A newly expanded University of Michigan program offers an alternative route to teacher certification to help alleviate the teacher shortage while ensuring the development of quality educators.

Michigan Alternate Route to Certification at U-M is expanding its program and creating the Initial Certification Pathway to serve aspiring educators who hold bachelor’s degrees in any subject throughout Michigan. Incoming candidates won’t need prior teacher certification.

With this new offering, M-ARC builds on its success in preparing and certifying about 230 teachers in the last 12 years, positively affecting students’ lives throughout the metro Detroit area.

The program began as a partnership with Teach For America-Detroit by providing the teacher preparation program for its corps members to hold certification required to teach in Michigan schools.

“This new pathway is opening (M-ARC) up to anybody with a bachelor’s degree and (who) can pass the certification tests to become a teacher,” said M-ARC Associate Director Jean Mrachko. “Instead of just working with a specific group of teachers in a small set of schools, all based in the Detroit area, we’re now able to work with teachers statewide. Plus, they will be in the classrooms this fall.”

Flexibility is another advantage of the new alternative route, Mrachko added.

“We wanted to make sure we were serving the whole state. The new teachers will be able to work in any school they want, versus Teach for America telling them what school they have to go to,” she said. “You want to be a teacher and there’s a specific area (in Michigan) you want to teach in, you will have that opportunity.”

M-ARC participant Ljiljana Maric works with students in Detroit in 2017. (Photo by Angela Marocco)
M-ARC participant Ljiljana Maric works with students in Detroit in 2017. (Photo by Angela Marocco)

Since 2010, M-ARC has prepared teachers to develop high-quality, equitable and socially just educational opportunities for all students. The program merges the School of Education’s 100 years of experience preparing teachers using practice-based approaches with the flexibility that alternative routes have to support educators learning as they teach.

M-ARC also offers the Additional Endorsement pathway, through which experienced educators can earn certification in additional content areas without leaving the classroom. It addresses the teacher shortage by providing more flexibility among existing teaching staff in schools and districts.

Born and raised in Detroit, Mojoko Esu graduated from Howard University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Next, she accepted the opportunity to join TFA and was part of the M-ARC program. She is a sixth-grade teacher at Brenda Scott Academy for Theatre Arts in Detroit.

“Programs of this nature and caliber are more important now than ever before,” Esu said. “Teacher shortages were rampant pre-pandemic, and the vacancies have continued rising at exponential rates across the state ever since. All children deserve a well-rounded education from quality educators who have the passion, proper training and tools to be highly effective.

“M-ARC helps to make that possible by providing diversified tools and continuous training to those who may not have taken the traditional route to teaching but have the passion for serving students and families now.”

In this program, candidates begin with a pre-service induction period that includes self-paced online coursework — with an average duration of five months — and a summer practicum experience working with children in an educational setting.

Once the pre-service induction is complete, candidates can start teaching under a Michigan interim teaching certificate. Then, for their first three years in the classroom, they will receive ongoing, practice-focused, content-specific preparation and development to earn their Michigan standard teaching certificate.

“What stands out in this alternate route is the three years of support,” said M-ARC Program Manager Karen Young. “When forming teachers, we’re not just sitting in the background while you’re teaching. We are there with you, partnering in your classroom.”

For many participants, an alternative route to the certification program allows for a career change and the ability to bring extensive real-life experiences into the classroom.

High school adviser David Vidal-Jones, who teaches Hispanic culture and languages, has transitioned from college to high school teaching. M-ARC has helped him reach the certification goal, broadening his teaching range, he said.

“Professionals and graduates inspired by the call of teaching need a program that supports their needs and realities as Michiganders,” he said. “M-ARC provides that, and the expansion of the program to younger generations of graduated professionals will fill the shortage of teachers’ gap, as the new teachers will learn and mature in the classrooms, learning by experiencing hands-on teaching every day.”

For Brennah Donahue, a third-grade teacher at Escuela Avancemos! Academy in Southwest Detroit, this program invites people who may not have initially considered education as a career to become involved.

“Besides allowing individuals to enter the field of teaching, bringing with them unique assets as they come from a variety of backgrounds, the program is a timely asset that can be a part of a creative solution to address teacher shortages,” she said.

Candidates can apply directly through the M-ARC website or request information by email at m-arcprogram@umich.edu.


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