New Fast-Track MAT Program!Assistant Professor Jeffrey Thomas (rear) and students Kim Ruddy (foreground) and Michelle Hier in CCSU's new MAT program.
"I fit the profile for the program perfectly," declares Ellen Roth-Perreault. She is obviously pleased to be in the School of Education and Professional Studies' new Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. It is targeted for prospective teachers of secondary mathematics, science, Spanish, English, and technology and pre-engineering education (K-12). The program, inaugurated September 2008, offers them a unique opportunity to earn both a master's degree and certification in state-designated shortage areas.
Ideal candidates, such as Roth-Perreault, have earned a bachelor's degree in one of the relevant disciplines and completed required state testing. She holds a BA in English literature, magna cum laude, from Salisbury University (and, for good measure, an MA in organizational development from Marymount University). She has also passed the Praxis II English subjects tests.
A former management consultant for ten years with Booz Allen Hamilton, a world-wide strategic management and technology consulting firm, before deciding to pursue her dream of teaching high school English, Roth-Perreault also perfectly fits admissions requirements for the program.
An Accelerated Route with High Standards
"The MAT program is designed to provide an accelerated route into shortage area classrooms while meeting all state and national accreditation standards," states Dr. Nancy Hoffman, professor of teacher education and MAT program director. "This initiative advances CCSU's long tradition of quality teacher preparation." The new MAT program is distinct from the School of Education's current post-baccalaureate certification programs, which are non-degree and designed for students preferring part-time study.
"We can selectively accept 25 students each year," explains Hoffman. "A cohort group that begins around Memorial Day in late May with a full-time schedule of classes will be able by July 4 of the following year-some 13 months later- to gain a master's degree and teacher certification." She observes that the MAT program appeals to those who are contemplating a career shift, are serious about working with young people, and have an undergraduate degree in the appropriate content area. "We want candidates to document at least 60 hours of experience with groups of children they want to teach, part of which needs to be in a public school setting. Why? Because we want them to have thought about the teaching work environment and the demands in the rhythm of teaching.
Demands Faced by Beginning Teachers
The new MAT program is a versatile tool to address increasing expectations placed on teachers' shoulders. Hoffman stresses that one of the MAT program goals is "to prepare beginning teachers who are not only starters but stayers in the profession. For those making a career transition, we're committed to providing high-quality instruction and a rigorous admissions policy.
Therefore, the curriculum emphasizes theory guided by practice; classroom lectures are coupled with applied activities. Field experiences, a critical part of the program, are supervised by both a certified public school teacher and a University supervisor. Observes Hoffman, "In designing the curriculum we looked at demands faced by beginning teachers-especially classroom management and working with inclusion. Future teachers need to be prepared to reach English language learners, as well as students with special needs, and to incorporate literacy instruction into classroom content.
Michelle Hier, who has a background in the biological/environmental sciences, has enrolled in the program. She worked as a wetland scientist and in several lab and research positions. Currently doing her internship at Bolton High School, she is incorporating class strategies and ideas into actual practice. "I never realized," she says, "just how many demands there are on a school teacher's time. It can be pretty overwhelming. I want to know each and every student, make the learning interesting and relevant, attend to the many special education needs, teach a set of state-outlined standards in a way, that captivates students attention, ensure I'm teaching effectively so that students are capable of doing well on the CAPT (without shoving it down their throats), stay involved in the life of school, and on and on. Our CCSU professors do a good job of including all of these aspects in their teaching."
Distinctive Cohort- Model Instruction
A distinction of the MAT program, according to Hoffman, is its cohort model of instruction. Cohorts are groups of students who move through their teacher education program together, sharing coursework. They become a learning community that acts as an academic and social support system.
"One of the great things about this program is that students are together for 13 months, and this creates collegial learning and tight bonds that persist well into teaching careers. The bonds endure as new teachers advance professionally," remarks Hoffman.
Roth-Perreault also has high praise for the MAT program faculty. "I can't stress enough how outstanding the faculty is. In particular, Professor Hoffman I can trust for a realistic view of educational issues. Dr. Cara Mulcahy from Reading and Language Arts is outstanding at teaching us the skills we need to teach reading strategies as content specialists. That's a key feature-we're learning how to promote literacy regardless of our content majors. Dr. Steven Ostrowski in English is a very serious and demanding professor, and he shaped me into a better writer and a more aware future English educator. And finally, Dr. Marie Hopkins in Special Education is phenomenal. She has an amazing background in special education."
The new MAT program is an outstanding example of CCSU's responsiveness to the workforce development needs of Connecticut. Hoffman states with pride that the program has won strong backing, not only from the University but also the Connecticut Department of Higher Education, for building on the strengths of the School of Education's existing NCATE-accredited programs and addressing current and growing demands for qualified teachers in critical areas.
For more information, please see the School of Education & Professional Studies site linked here.