Friday, Oct 8, 2021
The Rider program comprises 27 graduate-level credits hours
by Keith Fernbach
Rider University has received approval from the state of New Jersey to begin offering offer an alternate route teaching certificate.
The program is intended for individuals who are transitioning into the teaching profession and have a bachelor’s degree or higher but have not completed a formal teacher preparation program. To be eligible, they must hold an Instructional Certificate of Eligibility (CE) and have been provisionally hired by a New Jersey public school district to teach in their intended area of certification.
The Rider program comprises 27 graduate-level credits hours and can be completed in the two years prescribed by New Jersey Department of Education. It offers a combination of online and on-campus courses, and is designed to accommodate candidates who are working full time in their teaching jobs while attending evening classes part time.
All of the credits from the alternate route program can be applied to Rider’s 30-credit Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, which means that candidates who successfully complete the certificate will only need to take one additional three-credit course to earn their master’s degree.
Dr. Kathleen Pierce, the director of Rider’s MAT and Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Certification programs, is also heading up the new Alternate Route Teaching Certificate program. She says candidates pursuing this option face a unique set of challenges, and the Rider program has been set up to help them succeed.
“It’s difficult to transition careers, especially in a very complex field like teaching,” says Pierce. “Alternate route candidates have a very hectic school day. They are learning on the job, which can be intellectually, physically and emotionally demanding. Our teacher preparation courses help candidates process what they’re experiencing and give them the chance to learn alongside other adults who are also transitioning from other fields of employment.”
Pierce explains that this is done in several ways. The first is through the program’s introductory course, called "Reflection and Mentoring in Professional Teaching Practice." She describes it as a seminar where students work one-on-one with a faculty member to become better acclimated to the world of teaching.
“It’s really a professional acculturation course for candidates to reflect on what occurs in their classrooms relative to what current research and literature say about teaching practice,” she says. It covers topics including classroom management, teacher identity and diversity, teaching and learning, asking for feedback, and working with mentors.
After completing the introductory course, the alternate route candidates begin taking courses alongside students who are candidates in Rider’s Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Certificate program. Pierce says integrating the classes provides an invaluable benefit.
“In other alternate route programs, candidates get on-the-job experience during the day, and then they tend to take their teacher preparation courses in isolation,” she says. “There is no isolation with Rider. Candidates have the opportunity to work, laugh, and learn with an adult peer group, all of whom are career changers and working toward teacher certification.”
Since many of the post-baccalaureate students are employed in school districts in roles such as aides, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers, they also provide a valuable perspective that they can share with their classmates.
“They can discuss strategies for designing a curriculum or implementing assessments, and they can also commiserate about common struggles. Our program is really a fertile place for professional induction because you have this built in support system and opportunities for useful and informed discussion—guided by experienced faculty and candidates’ own experiences in various communities, school systems, and grade levels.”
Coursework is designed for students to enhance their overall preparation in teaching and learning, and offers a path to certification in a wide range of subject areas, such as art, business education, dance, ESL, health and physical education, sciences, elementary K-6, English language arts, mathematics, early childhood P-3, social studies, theater, music, and world languages.
The alternate route program also includes a seminar held in conjunction with Rider’s Office of Field Placement and State Certification to help prepare teacher certification candidates for the edTPA, the performance assessment that’s required for candidates to receive their certification.