CareerFocus: A New Breed of Teachers

By Sylvia Blair

A new breed of teachers is entering the Education field as a result of a shifting economic climate affecting the workplace. Teacher Education program administrators at Carroll Community College (Carroll) say they see an increase in applicants who have worked for years in their professions, then decide that their true calling is teaching. These Education majors have extensive expertise in their fields. Once employed, they offer tremendous
benefits to students in public, private, and independent teaching positions by bringing real world perspective into classrooms.

Former Carroll student Katie Nefflen is a prime example of such a “career changer.” Nefflen was an engineering manager for GE Energy. Over time, she began to realize that she had a knack for working with students. The teaching profession seemed attractive to her because of the flexible schedule and the opportunity to give back to the community. Nefflen enrolled in Carroll and took seven certification classes. She studied assessment in education, reading in the content area, special education, teaching methodology, and human development, among other subject areas. Nefflen completed her last certification class in summer, 2008. Today she is an AP Physics/Conceptual Physics teacher at Westminster High School.

“Carroll allowed me to easily complete my certification requirements while working full time,” Nefflen said. “I enjoyed my courses and time at Carroll. I found the faculty to be very
knowledgeable and friendly. I was easily able to register for the required classes. I feel that I
benefitted from my experience.”

Brad Yohe, science supervisor for Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS), was impressed when he met Nefflen. “She was a Naval Academy graduate and a physics/earth science major. At the
time, she made presentations to admirals and captains of the fleet. There was a high level of
accountability in that job. She brought all of this expertise with her into the classroom.
Katie became a master teacher in a short time, bridging the gap between the private sector and teaching.”

Gary Fuhrman is currently enrolled in Carroll’s Teacher Education program. He is completing his Maryland teacher certification requirements that are specified by the Maryland Department of Education. “My Carroll experience has been fabulous. The instructors are high
quality individuals with lots of experience. They are enlightened, extremely knowledgeable, and helpful,” Fuhrman said.

Fuhrman changed careers to become a teacher. “After retiring with 30 years in the environment/chemical industry, I felt I had something to offer to science students—particularly to help them understand the relevancy of what they are learning.”

Fuhrman teaches at Century High School and said that the transition from industry to the classroom was not difficult for him. “Every single course I’ve taken at Carroll, without
exception, has provided me with the tools and strategies to become an effective teacher,” Fuhrman said.

“We are so pleased to have Gary at CCPS,” Yohe said. “He came to us as an award-winning
environmental expert and is now teaching students about environmental topics.”

“Carroll provides an alternative route for personnel with a lot of experience or advanced degrees. We can attract people to work at CCPS with incredible career experience or advanced degrees. They know that the college is flexible enough to allow them to work and to affordably go to school,” Yohe said.

Clyde Sterner, human resources specialist in professional staffing at CCPS, said he has found that the faculty and staff at Carroll are “extremely helpful and supportive to our teachers.”
“I have worked extensively with Carroll faculty to help the college prepare students to enter the field of teaching,” Sterner said. “We worked together to develop a Resident Teacher Certification Program, we have collaborated on a Fast Track to Certification Program
and we are currently working together, along with our staff development department, to
offer opportunities for instructional assistants to achieve teacher certification. No one has been more supportive of our combined efforts than our CCPS Superintendent, Dr. Charles Ecker.” Sterner continues: “We have had teachers whom we hired on a conditional
basis (individuals who possess bachelor’s degrees in a content area but did not complete degrees in education) take this course work at Carroll. Many of these individuals have developed their skills and grown into excellent teachers. We have also had the
pleasure of hiring teachers who began their training in the A.A.T. Program at Carroll and who
articulated to four-year institutions to complete their education and training. I believe this is one of the most intelligent and cost effective pathways to teacher certification in Maryland.”

The Associate of Arts in Teaching (A.A.T.) degree is currently offered in Early Childhood Education, and as an A.A.T./Elementary Education and Generic Special Education. The A.A.T. degree is also offered in Secondary Education in Mathematics, Chemistry, English, and Spanish. Essentially, this degree offers all the courses a student pursuing a teaching degree
needs to enter a four-year college as a junior.

Before the A.A.T. was introduced, students were faced with a different transfer pattern for
each four-year college. In an effort to streamline the process, a consortium of two-and four-year colleges worked to design a teaching curriculum that would be universally accepted at four-year colleges. Elizabeth Coblentz is a Teacher Education student at Frostburg State University and a member of the graduating class of 2009. She recently was recognized as the Outstanding Elementary Education Student at Frostburg. She graduated from Carroll in
2007 with an A.A.T degree.

“My time spent at Carroll really prepared me for going to school at Frostburg,” Coblentz said. “The A.A.T. degree laid out specifically what classes I would be taking in order to graduate with that degree. In order to graduate in two years, I had to be dedicated to my education and take a few summer classes. All the classes that I took led to a smooth transition to a four-year college.

I had a positive time at Carroll. I give credit to the faculty for making that happen. I still keep in contact with a few of the professors who really made me successful. I have been able to apply here at Frostburg much of what I learned from the faculty.”

“Although I am not yet a teacher, I have had three internships over the past three  semesters,” Coblentz said. “My concentration is in Mathematics and I have definitely been able to use some of the ideas I learned in my Math Education classes at Carroll in my
internships.”

“Carroll Community College’s Education Programs are exceptional,” Dr. James Ball, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs, said. “I consistently hear from my counterparts at the state universities that our Education graduates are among their top students (native or transfer).

“They love to see our students matriculate. That speaks volumes about the quality of our program and our faculty,” Dr. Ball said. “Faculty members display an unwavering interest in student success. They feel they are not teaching students, but that they are developing future professional colleagues. That shift in mindset makes a significant difference in the way they interact with students. Students notice the difference and respond wonderfully to the idea that they are developing as professionals. I am very proud of our program, our faculty,
and our students”.

“We are definitely seeing higher enrollment among ‘career changers’. In this economy,
people see teaching as a secure profession,” Susan Sies, professor and coordinator of Education at Carroll, said. “The message we want people to hear is that Carroll can help people retrain to become teachers. We have flexible courses, online hybrid short semesters
and evening classes. This suits students who must work. We do have something to fit practically anyone’s situation.”

Teachers who complete the Education program at Carroll will certainly address a local teacher shortage in the county. “I believe that in the immediate future our state will face a critical shortage in STEM areas (Science, Technology Math and Engineering) as well as
in other high need areas,” Sterner said.

“The development of Teacher Academies in our high schools is one effort to address the
shortage,” Sterner said. “Credits will articulate to A.A.T. programs in community colleges, which then will connect to bachelor’s programs at state sponsored universities like Towson. We can ameliorate this shortage from within by ‘growing our own’ teachers. New and innovative ideas will be needed to keep our system at the top of our state in terms of teacher quality. We here at CCPS look forward to working with the community college to bring high school graduates, college graduates, and ‘career-changers’ into the exciting field of education.”

“It is absolutely vital that Carroll Community College support the development of new teachers, who are so needed in this county, in our state, and throughout our nation,”
said College President Dr. Faye Pappalardo.

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