In an effort to alleviate the teacher shortage in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and encourage young students to pursue careers in education, the Miami Dade College School of Education launched a brand new teaching academy at Miami Springs Senior High School.
The technical, career oriented program enables students to earn college credit toward a degree in education upon completion of a high school research course that surveys the teaching profession as a whole.
“Teaching needs to be made attractive to young people so that we can attract enough quality people into the profession,” said Mara Zapata, chairperson of K-12 Teacher Education Programs at the School of Education. “So this was a way to do that and…have high school students experience what teaching is like while also exploring whether they envision themselves in the profession.”
The academy inaugurated on Oct. 11 with the research class for ninth and 10th graders. As of now, 11 students are taking the course, and the enrollment cap is set at 20. The course, credited as a high school elective, is part of the students’ high school schedule and covers the history and present state of the education profession and the different career options within teaching.
Students will practice the craft by teaching each other and instructing peers in other classrooms later in the year. Those in the academy will learn the ethical values and laws involved with teaching and the steps required to become a teacher.
Participants must have a minimum 3.0 unweighted GPA, a commitment to their academic studies and the education profession and must also satisfy the dual enrollment requirements.
After fulfilling the research component, students from 10th to 12th grade will be able to take dual enrollment courses at MDC considered prerequisites for a bachelor’s in education, including introduction to the teaching profession, introduction to diversity, introduction to early childhood education and introduction to special education.
Summer enrichment programs at the College will offer the opportunity to meet students who are part of the School of Education and learn more about the baccalaureate program.
Next school year, students will volunteer by teaching at Miami Springs elementary and middle school to contribute in schools in their community and gain hands-on experience.
“We’re seeking to create a full pipeline from Miami-Dade County Public Schools to Miami Dade College School of Education and then back as teachers in Miami Dade County Public Schools,” said Susan Neimand, director of the School of Education. “A lot of people are still going to want to become teachers despite the criticism against teachers and…the fact that some think that it’s a very low salary.”
Neimand refutes that the pay is low.
“And when you see the look on somebody’s eyes when you have revealed something to them…there’s nothing more gratifying than looking at that person and knowing you helped improve their lives, and that’s why people become teachers,” Neimand said.
Critical shortage areas are in mathematics, biology and early childhood. However, students are given freedom to first explore teaching in general and later choose whichever path they wish to take.
There are plans to expand the program. Leadership at Felix Varela Senior High School and John A. Ferguson Senior High School have expressed interest in the academy, and meetings are taking place to start the program in those schools in the near future.
“Everyone remembers a teacher in their lives, who guided them and in some way made them who they are today,” Zapata said. “And every other profession, every successful person, is there because of a teacher that made that difference.”