Bill would allow unsupervised student teachers in Michigan classrooms

It’s a strange time to be a teacher at Marysville High School, according to English instructor Tiffany McLaughlin.

Districts like his are facing the same staffing shortages affecting schools across the state, leaving teachers, substitutes and support staff in high demand. These shortages come as schools attempt to return to normal after two years of remote and hybrid learning models.

One reprieve, however, is McLaughlin’s student teacher, Ashley Quigley, an undergraduate student at Eastern Michigan University. Quigley teaches McLaughlin’s Grade 11 and 12 English classes in the mornings for the first half of the weekend and also takes his afternoon classes in the second half.

“It was really cool and energizing as a teacher,” McLaughlin said. it’s been very uncertain and just a little weird.”

Quigley added with a laugh: “I’m a nervous wreck right now. But every day gets easier.

Ashley Quigley, an undergraduate student at Eastern Michigan University, discusses teaching students at Marysville High School on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

Under a new bill introduced by State Rep. Pamela Hornberger, Township of R-Chesterfield, schools would be allowed to place student teachers like Quigley in unsupervised classrooms, a change that, according to her, would fill vacancies with people who are equally qualified as replacements.

“Technically, you can substitute if you’re a body warmer in the school district until the end of this year,” Hornberger said, referring to a Michigan school code change allowing support staff without a certificate. teaching to substitute until the end of this school year. .

But even before that change, “you can sign up if you have 60 (college) credits,” said Hornberger, herself a former teacher with the East China School District.

As it stands, House Bill 5685 would further change the rules to allow unlicensed education students to teach in classrooms for up to one year. The bill was introduced to the State House Education Committee, chaired by Hornberger, on February 1.

Hornberger does not know if the current version of the bill will pass. She hopes to present an updated draft as early as next week to address concerns she has heard from institutions that train teachers.

State Representative Pamela Hornberger, Township of R-Chesterfield, testifies before the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee on April 24, 2019.

“I think to provide a quality experience for the student teacher and the students involved, we probably need a mentor teacher who is not removed from the situation but actively involved,” Hornberger said. “And the way the bill is written would allow student teachers to be in classrooms as a homeroom teacher, which is good. But you really need to have a mentor teacher. So we’re looking at that.

Substitutes versus trainee teachers

Hornberger acknowledges that most of the teachers affected by his bill can already fill in, which in Michigan requires 60 college credits or an associate’s degree.

Quigley herself used to fill in at Marysville. She said the experience eased her transition into teaching students.

“I already know a lot of students, then I was supposed to go to another school, but it didn’t work out,” she says. “So I asked the principal here, ‘Hey, do you have a place in the building for a student teacher?'”

She continued, “Replacement is what really helped me…you learn all about (teaching) in school, but it doesn’t really prepare you to be in the classroom.”

Student teacher Ashley Quigley spends her time reviewing her grades during FIT (Focused Instructional Time) at Marysville High School in Marysville on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

Hornberger said that in addition to addressing the teacher shortage, she wanted to make earning a teaching degree more affordable. That meant finding a way to ensure student teachers like Quigley got paid.

“My end goal is to make sure that student teachers receive compensation for their internship, which they haven’t had so far,” Hornberger said.

But some say the bill is not pro-teacher.

Paula Lancaster, dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University, called the financial aid portion of the bill “the only bright spot I can think of.”

Lancaster said in an email that teacher candidates are in fact eligible to be employed as teachers, but “only after they have completed adequate work in the class of an expert mentor and have been identified as job-ready. independently with children and young people”.

She added that a large percentage of beginning teachers who leave the profession after their first year do so “because they felt ill-prepared to meet the increasing demands and high stakes of the job.

“Asking teacher candidates to immediately enter their own classrooms without the opportunity to practice under the supervision of a strong mentor would likely exacerbate teacher turnover and turnover,” she said.

The idea wins the support of school administrators

Hornberger said the idea for his bill came from discussions with educators in Macomb County, which his 32nd District shares with southern St. Clair County.

Although the bill is likely going back to the drawing board, many local school administrators support its intent.

Superintendent Alan Latosz said community schools in Algonac are currently full, but realized teacher shortages could be an issue in years to come.

“If I wasn’t able to fill the classroom with a full-time teacher, then I would consider using a student teacher,” he said. “They obviously have a passion for the profession and would have already completed most of the teaching program by then.”

Marysville High School students complete homework, read, and discuss during a focused teaching time at Marysville High School on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

At Yale Public Schools, Superintendent Kurt Sutton said they had considered a “number of different solutions” to the shortage, adding that they had also been “lucky so far” to fill vacancies.

Still, he said, “we are doing our best to retain our excellent staff and would be open to finding creative solutions that involve education majors teaching in critical shortage areas to help alleviate the problem. “.

Marysville Superintendent Shawn Wightman also applauded the effort, with a caveat.

“This option is definitely preferable to hiring someone with no training or experience,” he said. “It would also help alleviate Michigan’s teacher shortage.”

But, he said, “a long-term solution is desperately needed, such as relaxing teacher certification requirements in Michigan for those who already have certificates in other states. This would encourage educators willing to relocate and strengthen the supply of candidates who could be hired to work in our schools.

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or jssmith@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.