New course offers students guaranteed path to becoming educators

An exterior view of the School of Education and Human Development. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami
By Jenny Hudak

An exterior view of the School of Education and Human Development. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

New course offers students guaranteed path to becoming educators

By Jenny Hudak
The Teacher Accelerator Program, a first-of-its-kind course offered through the School of Education and Human Development, positions students to become teachers in Miami-Dade County Public Schools upon graduation, guaranteeing them paid internships and employment through the program.

In an effort to attract students to the teaching profession and address the national shortage of teachers, a group of Miami education thought leaders has created a new initiative—the Teacher Accelerator Program (TAP)—and launched it for the first time this year at the University of Miami.  

Partners for the project include the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development; Achieve Miami, a nonprofit group that builds educational programs to extend learning opportunities in South Florida; and Teach For America, another nonprofit organization that prepares college graduates for jobs as teachers.

TAP begins with a one-semester course, followed by a paid summer internship in the classroom. University of Miami seniors who are not already pursuing a degree in education can put themselves on an accelerated path to a guaranteed teaching position in a Miami-Dade County Public School upon graduation and completion of the program.

“Teaching is a different kind of career in the sense that you get almost immediate feedback on your impact. At the School of Education and Human Development, we’re a school that’s about social impact in a variety of ways,” said Laura Kohn-Wood, dean of the School of Education and Human Development.  “This is an occupation where your ability to make an impact is immediate, and we want our students to be at the forefront of it.”

“We want students to see that teaching is a terrific profession. Where else can you have a nine-and-a-half-month work year, a $51,000 starting salary, great benefits, and the great satisfaction of teaching children?” said philanthropist and educational activist Leslie Miller Saiontz. “The TAP course is an intensive preparation for being a teacher, including teaching methods and classroom management. The program will walk participants through registration and testing to become teachers, while providing a $5,000 paid summer internship. It all prepares the UM graduate to start work in August in Miami-Dade. For students looking for a good job, a career ladder and job satisfaction, this course is it.”

Miller Saiontz serves as chair of the board for Teach For America and founder of Achieve Miami. “Teaching is really a great career. Whether you do it for a few years or forever, it is deeply fulfilling work. And we hope students get a glimpse of that through TAP,” she added.

Kohn-Wood; LaKeisha Palmer, executive director for Teach For America; and Miller Saiontz came together to develop the partnership between the University and the community. The team conceptualized several pipelines, landing on the idea of piloting an accelerated three-component program that would propel University students into the field of teaching.

The course curriculum was developed by Jennifer Krawec, associate professor of practice and director of teacher preparation programs in the School of Education and Human Development, and Matthew Deroo, assistant professor of digital literacies for multilingual students in the department of teaching and learning. The class, available to students through CaneLink as course TAL 590, will be taught by Deroo. Just by enrolling in TAL, students are automatically enrolled in TAP and slotted for a paid internship and job upon graduation. 

Deroo said students will be taught about pedagogy, classroom management, classroom pacing, and how to work in diverse environments during the semester-long class. “Programs like TAP are increasingly important because of the teacher shortage. And while a lot of the learning is done in the field, as teachers, it is important that they have a conceptual understanding of how teaching works in the United States before putting them up in front of a classroom,” Deroo noted.

On completion of the course in the spring, students may participate in a summer internship with professional development and in classroom experience and earn $5,000. The summer internships will be supervised by Teach For America and Achieve Miami. TAP participants will spend five to seven weeks of their summer teaching in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, where they will gain hands-on experience developing lesson plans and working with students.

While completing their course and internship, students will be offered support as they study for and complete the necessary certification exams to enter a teaching position. Then, once their summer internship is complete and their requirements have been met, students will be guaranteed a position as a teacher in a Miami-Dade County school.

Beyond the duration of their course and internship, TAP participants will be mentored throughout their first year of teaching through Achieve Miami and Teach For America.

Jasmine Calin, director of programming for TAP, and Lauren Barnes, director of planning and grant management, also worked diligently to bring the program to life through their partnerships with the University.

“At its core, teaching is developing the next generation of people. Becoming a teacher provides the opportunity to impact not just in Miami, but to develop young students and a whole community with them,” Calin said.

Visit the Teacher Accelerator Program to get more information.