KALAMAZOO, Mich.—"The best thing about what we're learning is that we don't want kids to replace their original language. We want them to be multilingual and use both languages." says Kristi VanderWoude, a kindergarten teacher at West Kelloggsville Elementary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. VanderWoude has been trying for two years to accommodate her classroom for multilingual learners who now represent a third of her students.
Through a new funding source, she is pursuing a masters degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Western Michigan University to help her make those accommodations.
"After the first week of classes, I was already talking to my professor about applying the lessons in my classroom," says VanderWoude. "When you have that many children who are multilingual learners and you just learn finally what to do with them, you're excited to be able to go into the classroom and apply it.,"
The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) is proud to be the host institution for more than 25 school districts, regional service agencies and multi-district consortiums participating in statewide initiatives aimed at addressing the national teacher shortage. WMU is leveraging funding from multiple sources to prepare new teachers in elementary and early childhood education, English as a second language, adapted physical education, special education, reading specialist and workforce education and development. Western will provide fully funded and high quality instruction in teacher preparation programs at the bachelor's and master's degree levels as well as a master's program in school counseling. These programs are unique in that they are developed specifically for contemporary learners and adults who have changed careers.
The key funding source, Future Proud Michigan Educator Grow Your Own (GYO), announced by the Michigan Department of Education in May, supports 80 school districts in the state by providing school employees seeking initial certification or additional endorsements with a tuition-free education. As part of the program, districts or multi-district consortiums receive grants of up to $19 million to support their teacher education candidates. The demand for GYO funding was significant, and, to meet that demand, a second-round funding opportunity was released in late summer. WMU now has partnerships in place with more than 20% of the first-round Michigan GYO district recipients. These partnerships include small and large school districts from around the state, such as Ann Arbor Public Schools, Parchment Public Schools, Van Buren Intermediate School District, Kellogsville Public Schools and West Ottawa Public Schools.
“Michigan clearly understands the need to fund districts to hire more educators during a national shortage. We are grateful that agencies across the state have entrusted us to educate these candidates. This speaks to the community’s trust in WMU’s College of Education and Human Development, and we are excited to work with this next generation of educators,” Dr. Laura Dinehart, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, says.
In addition to GYO, Western has a partnership agreement with four school districts as part of the Career and Technical Education 61i grant. This grant supports the recruitment, retention and continuing education of career and technical education teachers. Most of these program participants will enroll in WMU’s workforce education and development bachelor’s or master’s degree program.
The state of Michigan provides a third funding source to support future teachers, an initiative led by multi-district consortium Talent Together, which is partnering with WMU’s special education program to prepare teachers of students with autism, emotional impairments or learning disabilities. With Talent Together, the University is anticipating preparing more than 70 new Michigan educators.
The impact of these partnerships is significant on the community and the University. Western is expected to add more than 400 teacher education candidates for the state of Michigan as part of these initiatives, increasing WMU’s teacher education enrollment by 36% in the first year of the program. To accommodate this extensive growth, WMU’s College of Education and Human Development has announced the creation of a new program manager and will hire additional part-time and full-time faculty and support personnel. Additionally, the college is getting creative with programming to enable these non-traditional students to fast-track their degree. For example, the elementary education and early childhood unified education bachelor’s degree programs are expedited for GYO participants, making WMU the only three-year, expedited initial certification program of this kind in the state of Michigan.
As Dinehart says “partnership and collaboration is critical to the future of education. When educational agencies, higher education and K-12, work together for a better future, students, families and communities win.”
Kristal Ehrhardt, associate dean and director of teacher education, adds, “WMU was founded in 1903 as a teachers college, and preparation of teachers and other school professionals remains the heart of the University. The faculty and staff in the college are thrilled to support preparation of new teachers through these initiatives and to continue our history of strong partnerships with pre-K-12 schools.”
For more information regarding these unique funding opportunities, visit our Grow Your Own program webpage.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.