We realize that you have many options when looking for a teacher preparation program. You may also be aware that programs vary considerably in their reputation, quality of the preparation experience, and rates of job placement upon graduation. Below are a series of questions that you should ask yourself and the schools you are considering. We feel that the M.A.T. program at the University of Puget Sound is exceptional in the way it addresses each question.
Many programs use a high number of adjunct faculty to teach academic courses. These individuals are often disconnected from the core mission of the teacher education program. Therefore, course experiences feel like two worlds – one at the university and one in your school-based experience. A well-integrated program like the one at Puget Sound reflects an intense commitment by tenured faculty to teacher preparation. Your optimal experience comes from faculty members’ abilities to connect what you learn or practice in the university practice to what you do in the K-12 classroom. An added bonus is one where university faculty also supervise field. When faculty members see what their students do in the field – the very students they teach or have taught the previous semester – then theory becomes even more connected to practice. This kind of university-field connection is rare in teacher preparation programs, and it is a distinct feature of the M.A.T. program at Puget Sound.
One way a teacher preparation program can save money is by hiring part time field supervisors who have little or no daily involvement with the program at the university. Many of these individuals are retired principals or teachers. While these field supervisors may have administrative or teaching experience, they have little detailed knowledge of what goes on in the program. They also may not be subject to the same kind of rigorous evaluation that occurs at the university. At Puget Sound, the department and university regularly evaluate supervisors for their high quality teaching and ongoing professional development. This is something that should not be overlooked when you are considering a teacher preparation program. A strong, experienced field supervisor is critical to your success in the classroom.
It is one thing to get a certificate in teaching. It’s another thing to get a job. If the program does not have a recognized record of employing its graduates, then your certificate – not to mention the time you spent getting it – isn’t worth much. Look closely at the program’s track record. How many of their graduates get jobs? What kind of jobs did they get? Does the teacher preparation program even help their students find employment, particularly once they have graduated? And finally, what kind of relationship do they maintain with their graduates? Graduates of the M.A.T. program at Puget Sound have consistently had some of the highest placement rates in the state, and we maintain regular contact with many of our graduates informally, through biannual reunions, and as mentors in neighboring school districts to current M.A.T. candidates.
We have already mentioned the issue of high quality supervision. Another consideration is the range of experience. Some programs put students in only one field placement throughout their time in the program. Other programs may move students from one placement to another without the enabling the student to have the kind of depth of experienced need to understand classroom practices. A range of field experiences is vital to your growth as a professional. It is not only important that you have experience with different grades levels, but also with different kinds of k-12 students. While you may think that you just want to teach a particular grade level, you may change your mind. Many students do this. And once you are ready to look for a job, your varied experience in schools can be an important factor for a potential employer. Candidates in our M.A.T. program have three placement opportunities: two in the fall and one for student teaching in the spring.
Some programs simply place students in the field as quickly and as efficiently as they can. They do not take into account the student’s personality and his or her potential fit with a mentor teacher. Yet the student-mentor bond is essential to success in student teaching. Furthermore, it’s a great help if you can do your student teaching in a geographical area close to where you live. Does the program that you are interested in make these kinds of accommodations?
We spend a considerable amount of time in the fall tailoring your second and third placement based on your needs and potential relationship with a particular mentor teacher. We also accommodate students who want to do their student teaching throughout the South Puget Sound. In the past, we have supervised student teaching as far away from Tacoma as Kent, Silverdale, and Lacey.
Some programs try to disguise their overall costs by presenting the cost of an individual credit or unit. Be sure to do the multiplication and ask about the total cost of the program. Furthermore, make sure you ask about university fees in addition to the tuition costs. Public universities often add fees each semester on top of the cost of tuition, and this is not something that you become aware of until you are enrolled in the program. We make our costs explicit on the tuition and fees page of this site.
It may be appealing to get a certificate first, then a job, and then a masters degree. There are two problems with this approach. First, it takes you far more time to get the masters degree than you may have anticipated. Working at a new teaching job and taking night courses is a challenge for anyone. Second, and most importantly, is what is called opportunity cost. By not getting the masters degree as part of your teacher preparation program, you start lower on the pay scale. Having a masters degree can mean as much as $6,000 a year more in income. If you get a teaching job and then take two years to get the masters degree, that’s $12,000 in lost income that you cannot make up. It is much more cost-effective, even in the short run, to get a masters degree along with the certification. All of this is accomplished in an integrated manner the M.A.T. program at Puget Sound.