Teaching gets a boost from alternative certification program

By Mia O’Suji

Upon entering my first year of college, I was unaware of systemic inequities in our education system and how they would play the largest role in the trajectory of my life.

The residual effects of these systemic challenges led me to obtain a bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in education. By pursuing a career in education, I envisioned myself eradicaticating structural barriers hindering Black and Latinx students in low-income communities from having access to a high-quality education. 

Although I studied education in my undergraduate program, I chose to join the mission of Teach for America and relocated to Houston to serve as an 8th grade English teacher for a public charter school. 

While much of my and my students’ successes can be attributed to my undergraduate program and Teach for America, the support I received from a local Alternative Certification Program (ACP) deserves much credit for my growth as a first-year teacher because of the ongoing training and support it provided. The development I received consisted of intensive pre-service training, frequent observations and feedback from an instructional coach, and face-to-face professional development opportunities. 

My story supports the vision and mission of Prosper Waco’s Center for Transforming Alternative Preparation Pathways (CTAPP), where I am now director of content development and programming. CTAPP became a part of Prosper Waco and the Greater Waco community in September. 

CTAAP believes all prospective teacher candidates deserve equitable, high-quality preparation both prior to and during their first year in the classroom. Many educators still choose traditional, four-year, university-based teacher preparation programs, but a majority of Texas’s newest teachers opt to complete an alternative route to educator certification. 

Since 2015, the percentage of total new teacher candidates enrolling in ACPs has increased from 70% to 75% in 2017-18 (U.S. Department of Education, Title 2 data). Given that Texas certifies more new teachers annually than any other state (over 22,000 in 2017-18) and that Texas teacher candidates are more likely to enroll in ACPs, this has created a robust, yet efficient, pipeline for individuals looking to enter the teaching field.

For many candidates, alternative certification routes serve as a bridge between theory and practice — helping those with undergraduate degrees secure the necessary training and skills to enter the classroom without an education degree. For others, ACPs present an opportunity to explore a new career that will impact the lives of future generations of Texans. 

For novice teachers, ACPs offer critical on-the-job support and coaching to propel student results forward. Though each candidate brings unique life experiences to an ACP, they all possess a common goal: to learn new skills and provide a public service to better support the students and communities where they will teach. 

In Waco, several pathways exist to achieve alternative certification through McLennan Community College. Candidates can opt for MCC’s own ACP program or participate in programs from Tarleton State University and Texas Tech University at the University Center at MCC. Whatever pathway candidates choose, CTAPP exists to ensure that their preparation is top-notch; and soon, these teacher candidates will be filling classrooms around the Waco community to better serve the PK-12 student populations who deserve excellent educators.

Mia O’Suji is director of content development and programming for Prosper Waco’s Center for Transforming Alternative Preparation Pathways. Mia is a graduate of Howard University. Prior to joining Prosper Waco, Mia served as a PK-12 classroom teacher, a district instructional coach, and a dean of instruction in Houston. Her wide array of experiences have provided her with thorough knowledge of the inner workings of teacher preparation facilitation and coaching interactions. Mia’s passion for implementing rigorous, equitable teacher preparation practices has led her to the Waco community to spark innovation and collaboration to ensure the best outcomes for students. Mia may be contacted at mia@prosperwaco.org.