Erin Jones had accomplished plenty before she even started at PLU. Raised in the Netherlands, she had a bachelors degree from Bryn Mawr College, fluency in four languages and a tryout with the WNBA. Her experience included two years substitute teaching and three years teaching at a private school in Indiana.
But she didnt have a teaching degree or certification in Washington. When she was looking to take that step, she found PLUs Alternative Routes to Certification program a perfect fit. It provides a shorter route for experienced people to become teachers. The program is mostly hands onmore teaching, less coursework.
"I couldnt afford schooling without a grant, and I didnt want to start from scratch," Jones said. She got a grant, and didnt miss a beat in her education.
Jones, like each teacher candidate in the program, spends a majority of her time in the classroom, working alongside a trained mentor. She has been working with seventh-grade teacher Justine Johnson at Tacomas Jason Lee Middle School. Jones said Johnson has been an excellent mentor, and their similar teaching styles make for a seamless working relationship.
"Im not just getting certification, but a wonderful learning experience," Jones said.
PLUs School of Education as part of a partnership with five local school districts and Green River Community College hopes to help fill that void. The program isnt simply a "fast track" to certification, but a different route, designed for career changers who bring experience with them into their teacher preparation.
"It really opened the flood gates to people who wanted certification, but didnt want to start back at square one in the classroom," said Lynn Beck, School of Education dean. "A program that is experience-based rather than course-based is quite unique."
The alternative routes are available to: Instructional aides or other para-educators with associates degrees seeking certification in special education or English as a second language; classified school staff with college degrees seeking certification in shortage areas such as math and science; and people with baccalaureate degrees who are not employed in a school district or who hold emergency substitute certificates.
Jones is in Route III, a program designed for individuals with bachelors degrees. She was allowed to substitute teach and teach at a private school in Indiana, but Washington has stricter requirements.
Along with their in-school experience, participants meet every Saturday during the semester to both learn new skills and talk about what they learned from their own classrooms. Students vary in age and job experiences.
"The program is very diverse," Jones said. "It all has given me a different perspective on education." Jones has also been pleased with the training given by PLU teachers.
"Weve learned a lot about multicultural learning, special education, and what its like to teach a variety of students."