A teacher sits at a table to help elementary school students with their classwork.
A new School of Education program, called “Pathways to Teaching,” will offer mid-career professionals, retirees and others an accelerated path to becoming a teacher in Virginia. (Getty Images)

Looking to switch careers and teach? VCU is launching an accelerated path to obtaining a teacher’s license

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The School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University will offer a new program to provide career switchers with an accelerated path to becoming a teacher in Virginia, particularly in urban and high-needs schools across the state.

The program, called “Pathways to Teaching,” has been certified by the Virginia Department of Education and is now accepting applications for classes that begin this fall.

“VCU’s Pathways to Teaching program aims to engage, prepare and support success for experienced professionals who seek to transition to the classroom and provide quality education for students in urban and high-needs schools,” said Joan B. Johnson, Ph.D., executive director of licensure and accreditation at the School of Education. “The pathways program cultivates a passion for equity and social justice in diverse urban and high-need settings and develops talented career-changers to be effective and informed teachers.”

The 18-month program will provide instruction and support to participants as they navigate the pathway from preparation through induction and into ongoing, school-based learning. The program features a hybrid format that combines weekend coursework, one-on-one mentoring, and ongoing professional development to prepare teachers where they are needed most. The program will allow candidates who have full-time jobs to schedule night and weekend classes.

Participants who complete the program’s Level I coursework and clinical experiences will receive a provisional teaching license, which will allow them to seek full-time employment. 

“This kind of program is central to the VCU School of Education’s mission and helps to meet the needs of school divisions for teachers who are committed to the local classroom and the diverse needs of students in this region,” said Andrew P. Daire, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education. “VCU’s Pathways to Teaching career switcher program will provide instruction and support to participants as they navigate the pathway from preparation through induction, and into ongoing, school-based learning.”

VCU’s program is part of the Virginia Department of Education’s Career Switcher program, which provides an option for career professionals to enter Virginia’s classrooms, recognizes the life experiences of qualified individuals and provides participants with skills needed to pursue a teaching career in Virginia.

As of 2018, there were 2,844 Career Switcher program graduates teaching in Virginia public schools. And 30 educators who began their teaching careers as career switchers were serving as principals or assistant principals.

“The VCU School of Education recognizes the importance of multiple pathways for entrance into the teaching profession and for attaining teaching licensure credentials,” Johnson said. “These multiple pathways should provide options so that individual candidates may select the one that best provides them with a pathway to full licensure and teaching career.” 

The new pathway program complements the School of Education’s existing master’s degree and post-master’s degree certificates, Johnson said.

“VCU’s School of Education is best situated to offer this program because of our track record with innovative preparation programs such as the Richmond Teacher Residency Program and COVE (an alternate certification program for Special Education), as well as access to the School of Education’s nationally recognized centers,” she said.

The Pathways to Teaching program will move prospective teachers into the classroom early, as a full-time teacher, earning a salary, while working with experienced teachers and university education faculty. Furthermore, the VCU program can meet the needs of a specific local setting, preparing teachers close to home, where they are likely to stay and consequently improve retention of fully licensed teachers in those school divisions.

For more information about the program, visit https://soe.vcu.edu/community/office-of-strategic-engagement/pathways-to-teaching/.