April 12, 1999
Volume 51, No. 27
New Ed Studies program 'bridges' the gap to teaching
Filling a void that has existed since 1995, the Division of Educational Studies has launched a new teacher certification program called the Emory Bridge-to-Teaching.
Currently in its first semester of operation, Emory Bridge enables students to begin a program in the spring semester of their senior years that will earn them both a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and Georgia teacher certification one year after their undergraduate commencement. Three students are participating in Emory Bridge this year.
"The inspiration was, how do we serve these students in a way that gives some value-addedness to their Emory degree and allows them to enter into the teaching profession?" said Bob Jensen, associate professor of educational studies. "So we decided to have the last semester of their senior years serve the purpose of not only finishing up the requirements for their undergraduate degree but getting in the first semester of a program toward a master's degree."
Emory has not had an undergraduate teacher certification program since 1995, when the division discontinued a program that essentially was impossible for students to complete in four years anyway. Since then the division has concentrated on its MAT program, and Jensen came up with the idea of giving undergrads a head-start, along with a financial bargain; Bridge participants pay one-quarter tuition for the three semesters after receiving their undergraduate degrees. Division Director Jeff Mirel said he would be "delighted" if Emory Bridge interests more students in teaching, but the department has no plans to return to an undergraduate certification program.
"If the Bridge program helps attract more majors to Educational Studies, we would welcome them gladly, however we did not design the program for that purpose," Mirel said. "We see the Bridge program as an opportunity for students from all majors in the college to prepare for a career in teaching."
Indeed, only one of the three students currently enrolled in Emory Bridge, senior Nathifa Williams, is an educational studies major. Seniors Andrew Barton and Stacy Thayer major in English and math, respectively.
"Before entering the program, teaching was a distant ideal," Williams said of her experience in Emory Bridge. "The occupation seemed appropriately matched to my personality, and with cocky indignation I thought to myself, 'I can do that.' The field experiences that require us to observe classrooms within various school systems have forced me to re-examine my decision time and time again. The program's strength is that it captures the challenges within education while promoting the possibilities."
The field experiences to which Williams referred involve trips to not one but several Atlanta-area schools during Bridge's first semester to observe and do small-group tutoring. All three students will do half-time teaching in the fall before plunging into full-time service next spring, while completing coursework in the evenings.
"The other thing that's interesting about the Bridge program, and the MAT program in general, is we're trying to attract students who are interested in teaching in urban and multicultural settings," Jensen said. "We're trying to create an experience for these students where they can leave and feel comfortable teaching in a variety of situations--including urban schools, which is often very difficult. It's very difficult for people haven't had experience to just be thrown into a situation like that."