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Simpson Street Free Press

Edgewood College and Wisconsin National Guard Launch Accelerated Teacher Education Program

For almost a decade, our country has struggled with teacher shortages. In hopes of addressing the shortage, in August of 2023, Edgewood College launched the Accelerated Teacher Education Program. Edgewood College has recently expanded the program through a partnership with the Wisconsin National Guard.

The idea behind the Accelerated Teacher Education Program is to recruit and train new teachers. Through the new expansion, Guard members and their spouses can get master’s degrees and state teaching credentials at the reduced cost of $9,750, which is a nearly 50% reduction from the original price of tuition.

The online program can be completed in a year and allows participants to specialize in elementary, secondary, or cross-categorical education. There are eight-week course segments, allowing for five start dates throughout the year. Applicants can start courses as early as this summer.

In recent years, school districts around the country have endured record-breaking teacher shortages. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find instructors to fill those vacancies, in part because fewer students are pursuing education degrees. In fact, the shortage has worsened to the point that the state of New Mexico passed a bill, making it the first state to use members of the National Guard as substitute teachers.

Here in Wisconsin, the Department of Public Instruction issued 3,200 emergency licenses in 2021-22. These student teachers might not be fully qualified to teach. The number of emergency licenses issued in our state has nearly tripled in recent years.

Michael Meissen is the Senior Director of PreK-20 Educational Innovation and Partnerships Accelerated Secondary Program Coordinator at Edgewood College. He has worked in education in many roles throughout his career, including as a classroom teacher, school principal, and district superintendent. He started noticing teacher shortages and wanted to be part of the solution. He launched the Accelerated Teacher Education Program to provide an opportunity for the individuals with emergency licenses to earn their teacher certification.

In a recent interview with Simpson Street Free Press, Meissen said working together with the National Guard will match traditions at Edgewood College of working in partnership with the community to try to meet needs.

This program will allow Guard members and their spouses to help address a crucial need for schools in Wisconsin. The program is also a strong fit for the National Guard because they receive “a lot of professional development and training [with] some generalized skillset where there was a cross-over to serving the public and educating youth in the community," Meissen said.

The Madison Metropolitan School District has also created partnerships in hopes of filling teacher vacancies. The district already has a partnership with UW-Madison, with MMSD paying tuition for students who agree to become teachers and work for the district. MMSD recently expanded the partnership with UW-Madison and signed a similar agreement with Edgewood College.

Meissen is excited to partner with MMSD and is looking forward to strengthening their partnership. He hopes to work with longtime colleague and new MMSD Superintendent Joe Gothard and make a real impact in the community.

“I’ve known Joe and have watched what he's accomplished as a classroom teacher and leader, so I'm really excited and he’ll do a great job,” Meissen told Simpson Street Free Press.

Meissen says Edgewood College is trying to “reach far and wide, we are looking statewide and have been seeking partnerships in the immediate area.” Edgewood College is on a mission to find partners and work collaboratively to solve teacher shortages. “There is a spirit that we can go farther and faster by teaming together,” Meissen said.

Currently Edgewood College works with about 50 organizations. And Meissen is thinking about other ways they can address teacher shortages, such as creating pathways for undergraduate students.

“We're hopeful these ideas will gain momentum and we are not stopping here, we have more ideas to really make a big impact on the shortages that are out there in teaching,” Meissen said.

Meissen also emphasized the program highlights Edgewood College’s interest in recruiting and preparing individuals who wish to become teachers, and also finding ways to help existing teachers stay in the profession.

In a recent interview with Kayla Huynh of The Capital Times, Meissen said, “Our goal is to be service-oriented and meet the needs of qualified teachers across the state.”

[Sources: The Capital Times; Edgewood College; Wisconsin National Guard]

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