Graduates turn to alternative teaching programs

Alissa Ricci

Approximately 40-60 graduating Villanova seniors pursue post-graduate volunteer work each year, many of whom enter alternative teaching programs, according to the Office of Campus Ministry’s Web site. 

Such programs include Teach for America, Alliance for Catholic Education, Operation Teach, Response-Ability, Blue Engine Fellows and others.  Each program varies in how teachers are trained and placed within schools. 

Many programs provide intense training in the summer and throughout the school year, as teachers gain valuable on-the-job experience while earning a starting teacher’s salary. 

Some programs are locally based, serving disadvantaged schools within a single city. Others are nationally or internationally based, serving many areas where teachers are needed. Alternative teaching programs culminate in a master’s degree in education and teacher certification upon completion. 

Alternative teaching programs provide many benefits for college graduates, such as the chance to serve the needs of disadvantaged students and the opportunity for professional development through teaching. However, college graduates are typically required to commit one to two years to these programs, as well as an intensive amount of time and energy to teaching. College graduates must relocate to urban or rural areas in distant locations, sometimes far from home. They must also delay plans to enter the workforce or graduate school. 

Charles Youn, a senior political science major, will postpone his plans to attend law school in order to participate in Teach for America for two years. 

“My goal for post-college has always been to go to law school,” Youn said. “However, during college I’ve developed a passion for community service, especially working with inner-city kids. Teach for America has presented me an opportunity to do both: work with inner-city students for the next two years, as well as having the option to apply to law school afterward.”

The U.S. Department of Education is currently promoting alternative teaching programs as an effective way to counter the teacher shortage, as well as to improve the quality of teachers in schools, according to a recent New York Times article. This means that alternative teaching programs and traditional teaching colleges are both included in governmental funding plans for education. 

“Though I may not have a traditional four-year degree in education, I am confident that the training sessions from Teach for America will help prepare me to be a teacher,” Youn said. “Teaching, like learning, is a lifelong process.” 

Youn will teach middle school mathematics in Wilmington, Del. this coming fall. 

Each year, the education department typically enrolls between 36-46 education majors who are working toward becoming newly certified teachers, according to enrollment statistics. 

These students will become secondary and elementary teachers in a wide variety of subject areas, from the foreign languages to English to the sciences. 

They must complete a major in education as well as a teachable K-12 subject area.

Students who pursue alternative teaching programs often have majors outside these subject areas, earning bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts disciplines or social sciences.  

The alternative teaching program gives them the educational coursework they need in order to become K-12 teachers. 

Angela Rios, a senior political science major, is waiting to hear back from Alliance for Catholic Education, which recently began a new program at St. Joseph’s University. 

If accepted, Rios will join thousands of other college students who become members of the teaching profession. Her decision to apply was influenced by a number of factors. 

“I knew I wanted to do at least a year of service after graduation, and I also knew I eventually wanted to become a certified teacher,” Rios said. “ACE combines service with education. I think my mission trip experience and other service experiences throughout my time at Villanova will help me in ACE.” 

Likewise, Youn also stresses the University’s commitment to service as a crucial factor for his decision to enter Teach for America.

“For the past four years of my Villanova experience, I have been part of an on-campus community service group called Rays of Sunshine,” said Youn, who serves as the executive director of the on-campus community service organization. “I believe through this organization I’ve developed a tremendous heart and desire to serve the inner-city — especially the students. I believe every student and child should be given an equal opportunity to succeed, and through this program, I have an opportunity to help.”