Whether changing careers later in life or adding another teaching license to the repertoire, many teachers in Wisconsin schools have found their way to the classroom through alternative routes.
While the majority of educators still earn their teaching license through traditional university programs, there are other pathways to licensure in the state. For professionals interested in stepping into the field for the first time or for those looking to transition into a new role within a school district, the Pathways to Licensure page on the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) website can be a first helpful step in determining which route is best.
One pathway to licensure, specifically in technical and vocational education subjects, is the experience-based license. Yan White, the Technology and Engineering teacher at Prairie Farm High School combined his experiences in coaching, teaching at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, and working for a commercial construction company to complete requirements for the experience-based license.
White was enthusiastic about stepping into the teaching profession at the high school level. “I love teaching, and I am grateful for this opportunity to teach. The connections I am able to make on a daily basis are priceless. It is so rewarding to watch students take skills they learn from me and apply them to their lives after high school.”
That same thread of enthusiasm persisted among teachers who agreed to talk about their journeys into teaching for this story.
Business and information technology teacher, Valerie Martin, also secured an experience-based license. Drawing from her background as a city director of administration and her master’s degree in finance and management, Martin found her education and pedagogical experience to be a great fit for her current position at Cassville High School. “I am so thankful for this alternate route to getting a teaching license. I believe in education and find value in getting a teaching degree; however, I also feel that a lot of the content I teach directly relates to real-life situations,” she said. Helping students learn from her first-hand experiences within the industry has been rewarding.
Another pathway to licensure can be taken through one of the DPI-approved Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) programs in the state. Al Betry, the program director for CESA 9’s Excellence in Teaching Program described participating students mostly as those who are hired with a license with stipulations, and some who student teach in the second semester of the program. He talked about the support CESA 9 offers once educators complete the coursework. “We offer year two support. We are reaching out to say we are going to do some onsite coaching visits. We also offer two trainings they can pick from that are part of their tuition that they can attend.”
Keven Brunett and Jeffrey Libby, two teachers who completed CESA 9’s first cohort, were thrilled to participate in the program. Brunett currently teaches art in the Rhinelander School District and is grateful for the ongoing support built in even after completing the program. “CESA 9 also has new teacher orientation sessions that provide guidance and support. My mentor from the CESA 9 licensure program has been a great resource. Everyone wants me to succeed just like we all want the students to learn, feel safe, be supported, mature and succeed.”
His experiences as a new teacher have been overwhelmingly positive as well. “Absolutely everyone I have encountered as a new teacher has been supportive and extremely helpful. I am fortunate to have great mentors and colleagues in each building that I teach in. The administrations work hard to create a great learning environment,” he said.
As a School of Options and Applied Research (SOAR) Middle School Advisor, Jeffrey Libby teaches grades 5-8 for the project-based charter school. When he moved back to Wisconsin with his family, he was admittedly a little panicked about which licensure program to complete based on the long distance he would have to drive for a university program while working and raising two children. When he learned about the CESA 9 program from his principal, he said “the idea that CESA 9 would hold the class in Tomahawk, they would come to me, here at school and work with me, it was an incredible opportunity. It gave me the opportunity to create a whole new life for myself.”
Many teachers talked about how important it was for them to be able to work full time while pursuing their teaching license. Meredith Foshag, special education teacher at Oriole Lane Elementary School in Mequon recently earned her regular education license and completed the Master of Arts in Inclusive Education program through Cardinal Stritch University. “I feel that my field experiences, student teaching experience, and coursework gave me the skills needed to be successful as a first-year educator. My classes were current on best practices and emphasized the importance of meeting each individual student's needs. The cohort model also focused on collaboration, which is so important in the teaching profession,” she said.
Another educator who created a new life for himself through teaching is Michael Aidoo, an art teacher at the Lola Rowe North Milwaukee College Prep Charter School. He shared his love for teaching and had a message for anyone thinking about a teaching career. “I encourage them that there is a way to get it. It requires time, but it is absolutely worth it. I just love it. I thought, what a cool way to be shaping the future generation.” Aidoo earned his teaching license through the license based on equivalency pathway. He completed his education degree at The University of Education in Winneba, Ghana, specializing in art, and fulfilled the remaining Wisconsin requirements to teach in Milwaukee.
No matter which pathway they chose, the educators in this story shared an uplifting message about the profession and licensure programs available. Their stories do not represent every DPI-approved alternative route to teacher licensure in the state; rather, they provide a taste of the work being done to address teacher shortage areas while welcoming passionate and talented people into the teaching profession.
For those interested in exploring the various pathways to licensure in Wisconsin, visit the DPI Pathways to Licensure page.