GRAND RAPIDS — We are all going to take something different out of this unique time in our country’s history. Some people may decide that now is the time change jobs, perhaps to something more secure or essential, like teaching. Aquinas College has a pilot program that could help, it’s called Accelerated Master in Education or “AME”.
Michelle Anderson is the secondary education program director at Aquinas, and says the new program which started in August of 2019, was a collaboration between Aquinas and the Michigan Department of Education to address a need.
“It’s a pilot program that we put together with the state of Michigan to address the teaching shortage in Michigan as well as the Grand Rapids area. There has been a shortage in Michigan for a while now, and a lot of that has to do with the aging population of retirees and those who are buying out their retirement and starting a little bit earlier than they probably used to," she told Fox 17 Monday.
"It's accelerated because they're taking approximately three courses each semester, so that's nine credits. And those classes cover the gamut of the educational field, including curriculum, assessment and literacy. It allows us some leeway for how our participants work on their masters," Anderson added.
The AME program takes eighteen months in total to complete but, for people like Ken Jipping of Zeeland, a 25 year veteran of the Navy, the participants can be full-time teaching in as soon as one year.
"It started in August and we're done around the end of June as far as the certification portion, then we can start looking for a teaching job and then we can come back and finish the masters part of it", Jipping told Fox 17.
Anderson adds, "Eighteen months and that includes the completion of the thesis, but we will stop them to get them their certification first and then they can come back and finish that at their leisure."
There are two main caveats with the program. The first is that the students must already have a bachelor's degree with a teachable major or at-least minor, and the applicants need at-least 100 hours of experience working with students in their target age group, which can come through coaching, paraprofessional or as a substitute teacher like Ken. His AME classes are just twice a week, Saturdays and Monday nights, and he says the flexibility that this new program provides is the key.
"If you wanted the education classes (elsewhere) to become a teacher, you'd had to go during the daytime, when you really probably needed to be working to collect a paycheck. So this satisfies that requirement that gives you that capability to still get out and work."
The next session's application deadline is April 30. To apply, go to aquinas.edu/education-graduate, email SchoolofEd@aquinas.edu, or call 616-632-2800. Applicants who already work in their K-12 partner schools are eligible for a 20% discount, and there is a 50% reduction in tuition for students who work for the Catholic Diocese.