Montclair State University has launched the first Teacher Certification Apprenticeship Program in the state of New Jersey backed by the U.S. Department of Labor, directly addressing the national teacher shortage by creating an earn-while-you-learn pathway for current paraprofessionals to become classroom leaders.
The University hosted a special signing ceremony to announce the historic initiative, which is slated to welcome students for the fall 2024 semester, on November 14 in honor of the 2023 National Apprenticeship Week. The program is one of only 27 such initiatives in the country.
“Montclair State University has been in the business of preparing teachers for more than 100 years,” Montclair President Jonathan Koppell said during the event. “Initiatives like this are part of our DNA. Montclair was founded as a normal school to prepare teachers for the classroom and to have a profound impact on students’ lives, but that must be done differently now. We are thrilled to enter into this partnership with the Department of Labor and Wayne Township Public Schools to create new and innovative opportunities for people to become teachers.”
School district leaders joined the Department of Labor at the ceremony, which also featured remarks from Department of Labor representatives Michael Blatt and Nicole Field.
“New Jersey, like many other states, faces significant challenges in attracting and retaining education professionals,” says Blatt, a state director for the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship. “By creating this apprenticeship program, Montclair State University is addressing this challenge by providing a high-quality pathway into the teaching profession that creates opportunities for those who have never had that door opened for them before.”
How Does the Teacher Certification Apprenticeship Program Work?
Montclair’s College for Education and Engaged Learning (CEEL) will oversee the program, and will work to partner with school districts to provide access and opportunities to the teaching profession for underrepresented populations.
The Paraprofessional-to-Teacher Pathway will offer current paraprofessionals the chance to complete a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification. The program enables apprentices to gain real-time teaching experience while simultaneously completing teacher certification requirements through an alternate route program.
Wayne Township Public Schools is the first New Jersey school district to partner with Montclair for the program, with more than 30 paraprofessionals expressing initial interest.
“Finding solutions to large-scale problems like the national shortage of teachers will require outside-the-box thinking, and our partnership with Montclair State University is an example of what is needed to start solving it,” says Wayne Superintendent of Schools Mark Toback. “We are thrilled to partner with Montclair to develop a unique solution to one of the most pressing problems in public education while supporting our employees in advancing their careers.”
Innovating to Solve the Teacher Shortage
School districts nationwide have felt the impact of the teacher shortage, with a recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics reporting nearly 90% of districts surveyed struggled to hire teachers for the current school year.
With a more than 115-year history of preparing New Jersey’s teachers for the classroom, Montclair is uniquely positioned to solve one of the state’s most pressing educational challenges.
“Montclair has a national reputation for preparing high-quality teachers,” says CEEL Acting Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Sumi Hagiwara. “The apprenticeship program will provide students access to quality teacher preparation while meeting their needs through a flexible pathway.”
For more information on the College of Education and Engaged Learning at Montclair State University, visit montclair.edu/ceel.