By Sabrina Spannagel Bradley
An excellent career choice for graduates who major in Spanish is to become a world language teacher. The Masters In Teaching (MIT) program provides a path to teacher certification. I asked colleague Phillip Markley, PhD, about the role he plays in preparing hopeful world language teachers for the classroom.
What is the MIT program?
PM: The Master in Teaching (MIT) program is an advanced degree that will prepare you to be a public school teacher in grades 6-12 (Secondary Teacher Education) in a particular field of study and I work in World Languages. The degree also comes with certification which permits all graduates to teach anywhere in the state of Washington in all public and private schools, without certification you cannot teach in the public schools in Washington. Also certification here often transfers to many other states as well.
What is your role in the MIT teacher education program?
PM: I teach two World Language Methodology courses and one Second Language Acquisition course and often coach students in their practice commonly called student teaching but we usually say co-teaching these days since the candidates are working closely with a mentor teacher. Over the years I have become the unofficial Coordinator of all things related to World Languages in the Secondary T eacher Education Program (STEP) in the College of Education.
How many students are in the program and which languages are they preparing to teach?
PM: We have had many languages in the program, during my time teachingin the MIT we have certified teachers in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin-Chinese, and American Sign Language. We also offer certification in Korean but no one has been certified yet in our program. Our program is a cohort program and we usually have between 60-70 candidates a year. A cohort program means students take most of their classes together however the classes that I teach are the ones only for the World Language candidates. In World Languages we often have between 8-15 candidates, and for example next year we have 15 accepted world language candidates.
Who are our students?
PM: We have many heritage speakers and also many native speakers who are often immigrants from Spanish speaking countries who are looking for a new career and a way to give back to their new country. We of course have many students who graduated with an undergraduate degree in Spanish, many from our own program. We also have many Spanish majors who have studied abroad with us here at the UW or once graduated have gone to Spain with the Cultural Ambassadors Program or received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Latin America. Both these groups are very well prepared since they have the undergraduate experience and also real life experiences in teaching in Spanish speaking countries.
How many courses do they take and how much time do they spend in the classroom as student teachers?
PM: They take courses every quarter, it is a very full schedule and every quarter there is a component of working in the schools. We always begin in Spring quarter because some school districts are already looking for teachers for the following Fall so we want our graduates to be ready to interview for those positions. Often times, there are also possibilities of being a substitute teacher in the Spring which pays well and also is a good way to network to find out about positions that are about to be listed. Getting back to the original question, candidates in the Fall are usually at their placements 3 days a week and attend classes 2 days a week and in Winter quarter they are in their placements full time and take 1-2 classes in the evening. So you can see it is a very intense year.
What are some important experiences these students have that best prepare them for their teaching careers?
PM: As I mentioned earlier, we look for experience in teaching, for example, those who have taught English abroad or those who have volunteered in our community schools or with organizations such as El Centro de La Raza, doing tutoring or other related work. Others also have come to us having been paraeducators and have realized that the pay for paraeducators or teacher assistants is less than half of what a teacher usually earns even though they are doing a lot of the work a teacher does, so it is good work for a short time but being a teacher with certification is a better long term plan.
Any perspectives; opinions; quotes from students themselves?
PM: Most candidates have told me that the MIT was a very rewarding experience and they learned a lot in one year and have also created friendships within the cohort and sometimes with their mentor teachers that will last a lifetime but it was also a very intense year with both classes and teaching all at the same time. And especially this year when the teaching has been all online, what a year of learning for all of us.
What are the job prospects for foreign language teachers?
PM: The job prospects for Spanish teachers is very good, 100% of all of our World Language Spanish teachers have been offered a teaching position right after finishing the MIT; many even had 2 or 3 schools to choose from. Most of the graduates wish to stay in the greater Seattle area but some prefer to go to other areas of the state and even to different states.
Who are good candidates for this program?
PM: Good candidates for this program are those students who are interested in making a difference in students’ lives and are open to embracing the diversity of students in our school systems. Our program in particular has an emphasis in social justice where we talk about many issues within our community and ourselves.
If people are interested in the MIT program, who should they contact or what links may they consult for further information?
PM: The first thing to do is to check out the website https://education.uw.edu/programs/teacher/secondary/application-process-faqs. If you have any questions you can contact me (email@example.com), or Dalia Correa who also is very knowledgeable about our program. For questions regarding certification and endorsements, contact Michael Nielsen.