Jill Harder counts a cousin, who teaches in Central Florida, and her sister, a Florida State graduate teaching in Guatemala, as two of the biggest influences on her own career choice.
“I decided to pursue a degree in elementary education because I firmly believe that teachers give students the foundation that they need to succeed where they are in life and later in life as well,” Harder, a 20-year-old Lakeland, native said. “Not only that, but helping to shape the future leaders of the community is such an important way to give back.”
Harder, a junior elementary education major, is in the FSU College of Education’s inaugural accelerated B.S./M.S. program, started in August. At 10 a.m. Friday, they plan a ceremony in conjunction with the Tallahassee Chamber and Leon County Schools to formally introduce the program.
Already there are 107 students enrolled, with a goal of 180 in the next few years. With the new dual-degree track introduced, FSU is phasing out its traditional bachelor of science in education major.
Dean Marcy Driscoll said the dual-degree concept was created for several reasons. High on that list is an attempt to boost the number of students choosing education as a major and increasing the ranks of qualified graduates ready to step into the classroom.
“We wanted to have a program that was distinctive from our competitors in the state,” Driscoll said. “Enrollment in teacher education has been down nationally. We looked at what we could do to make education majors more marketable.
“The master’s degree opens doors,” she said. “Teachers with master’s will command a higher salary.”
Secondly, Driscoll said, more students were entering FSU with college credits earned in high school. In many cases, they are earning their undergraduate degree at an earlier age and choosing to stay and complete their master’s requirements.
Staff also recognized that some students were earning their bachelor’s degree at 20, “pretty young to start teaching high-school students,” she said.
“It made sense to combine the two programs,” she said.
An advantage, Driscoll said, is students with a master’s degree will enter the workplace with a deeper content knowledge and deeper pedagogical knowledge.
In-state tuition costs range from $26,000 to $30,000 to complete the major. The college offers $450,000 to $500,000 annually in scholarships to offset costs, Driscoll said.
“It’s more than any other college at FSU and more than any other College of Education in the state,” she said of the scholarship pool.
A student with advance college credits entering the program can graduate with dual degrees in four years, while those starting fresh will be on a five-year track.
The college is offering five teaching concentrations: Elementary Education, English Education, Special Education, Social Science education, and Visual disabilities education
“The one thing you will notice is the absence of math and science, but that is part of the FSU-Teach (program); a dual-degree program through the College of Education and the College of Arts and Science,” she said.
Students in that program earn two degrees, one in education, and the second in math or science, including biology, physics or chemistry.
“It integrates content and pedagogy,” Driscoll said. “There is a huge need for science teachers.”
FSU is looking to expand the FSU-Teach offerings to include engineering and computer science education.
Driscoll said the 107 students in the program enrolled despite little advertising from the college.
Students in the College of Education are mostly from Florida. But in response to a marketing consultant’s recommendation, the college will begin more promotions in the northeast, hoping to attract students from the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania corridor.
“The marketing firm identified talented students who would meet FSU’s high admission standards,” Driscoll said.
Increasing the number of minority students to become teachers also is important, she said.
At the same time, the college wants to work closer with superintendents in Gadsden and Jefferson counties to form the same relationship it already has in Leon and Wakulla counties.
Rose Skepple, who holds a doctorate in education from Eastern Kentucky University, was hired in July as coordinator of teacher education. One of her goals will be to broaden the college’s relationship with rural school districts.
“We want to be sure we are helping them to meet their needs,” Driscoll said of surrounding counties. “We know the rural districts have a real need to identify and keep qualified teachers. We have to ask, ‘how can we be helpful?’ “
Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @byrondobson.
The FSU College of Education, in conjunction with the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is holding a “ribbon-cutting” ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday at the Stone Building to introduce the program.
Heidi Otway, the chamber’s board chairman, said building on the relationship between the chamber, Leon County Schools, World Class Schools and the FSU College of Education will be important during her tenure with the goal of helping graduates get jobs in the district.
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