Opinion

Maine teacher certification needs more time

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On Wednesday, Sept. 11 the state board of education will meet at Brunswick High School to be updated and possibly approve changes to the rules of Chapter 115 “The Credentialing of Educational Personnel.”

We have a new administration, and with it a new commissioner of education. Rather than approve the proposed rules, the state board would be wise to pause and allow Commissioner Makin to bring her expertise, and more importantly her fresh experience as an administrator in the field, to the table.

Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford

Rep. Paul Stearns,
R-Guilford

K-12 education, like every other job sector in Maine, is at or near crisis stage in finding qualified applicants to fill positions. It is no secret that Maine has some of the most stringent and difficult to navigate certification rules in the country. Burdensome requirements routinely keep great people from teaching our children. Now is the time to make common sense adjustments.

For example: Kim Vogel moved to Eastport in 2017. She is a nurse that served in the Army and Air Force, and was honorably discharged as a captain in 2002. Shead High School was recently in need of a science teacher and Kim was available. She was told by state certification officials that she could not be certified in Maine as she does not have a bachelors degree.

Kim entered Vanderbilt University in 1991. Vanderbilt, Yale and the University of Washington had created a program in response to a shortage of advanced practice nurses. There were multiple entry options. Kim was accepted into the program with 72 undergraduate hours and the successful completion of certain required courses. They then “bridged” her straight through to the masters without conferring a bachelors. This option still exists today. She completed that program with a 4.0 GPA and was the recipient of the Julia Hereford Scholarship.

After leaving the military she attended Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and competed a second masters in studio art, again with a 4.0 GPA. She completed additional post grad course work at the University of Oregon to get 18 graduate hours in art history, and she has completed two doctoral courses in education from North Central University.

She is TESOL certified and has been teaching ESL online for 10 years. She served as program director/department chair for the practical nursing program at a small college in Oregon. She guest lectured and taught random classes at Vanderbilt, taught medieval art as a grad student at Oregon and has taught ethics at Pioneer Pacific College while being the program director. She also has 24 undergraduate science classes on her transcript.

The principal of Shead High may now need to fill the science position with a long-term substitute, one that may not have anywhere near the experience or qualifications of Kim.

Sadly, similar stories exist in every Maine school system.

Bill Ashby is a nationally renowned soccer coach at UMFK where he teaches physical education. He recently inquired about a career shift to teach high school PE. Bill was told that he would need to take 13 classes and the Praxis exam in order to teach high school P.E. He would have to take classes that he teaches!

Sometimes, people in a situation such as Bill, will accept a K-12 job with a provisional certificate and take two classes a year toward their full endorsement. In most cases local property taxpayers foot the bill for this redundancy. All too often these applicants decline the position and move on.

The objective of certification is to increase the odds of having high quality. Maine’s rules favor technicalities and redundancy over proven quality and success. If Vanderbilt, Yale and the University of Washington can be flexible and reasonable so can we.

Rep. Stearns, R-Guilford represents House District 119. He is a retired superintendent of schools in SAD 4 and is a past president of the Maine School Superintendents Association.

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