April 19, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

A few people sitting around a table talking with a chalkboard behind them.

If you walk the halls of K-12 schools across the country, you will likely hear about the current teacher shortage. What might go a bit more undetected is the fact that there are an increasing number of teachers who are not credentialed specifically in the subject area in which they are teaching.

This national shortage of certified teachers is only exacerbated in the state of Michigan, where according to the U.S. Department of Education data, for the 2022-2023 school year, the state had the greatest amount of teacher shortages in more than 10 different areas of study.

Not settling for status quo

This has unfortunately become the status quo. Brian Bolt, dean of education at Calvin University, says it’s just not good enough.

“We are so grateful for the teachers who have stepped up to meet the growing needs of our schools, even stepping in to teach subjects where they are not credentialed,” said Bolt. “However, this is not a solution that is in the long-term best interest of K-12 students. We must do better, and, at Calvin, we are committed to being a partner in solving this issue.”

Currently the state of Michigan is doing their part, providing students with a stipend of $9,600 during their student teaching experience. Calvin is now stepping up as well. This summer, the university is launching a one-year Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree.

Creating an accelerated, affordable solution

“We are trying to create an incentive and a good program that will help people who are thinking about teaching middle and high school, to jump in,” said Erek Kooyman, the director of the MAT program, who has experience teaching in public and private K-12 schools both locally and abroad and as an elementary school principal. “When considering the funding the state is kicking in already, getting this master’s degree and certification is very cost-effective at less than $15,000.”

Calvin’s Master of Arts in Teaching provides an accelerated path to earning both a master’s degree and a teaching certification at the secondary education level in the state of Michigan. Architects of the program say it provides many different people with a path to a teaching career in just 12 months. Whether someone is looking to return to the workforce after staying at home to raise their family, wanting to change careers, needing the credentials to continue to teach a subject in the school they are in, or if they completed a bachelor’s degree in any field but realize now they would love to go into teaching, there’s a one-year path for them to get there via this new offering at Calvin.

“We have been certifying teachers for 100 years at Calvin and doing it really well, and so we see offering this as an opportunity for us to open up new pathways and possibilities for learners of all ages,” said Bolt. “There are plenty of post-baccalaureate opportunities out there, but this program is different in that you are pairing a master’s degree with a certification in an accelerated one-year format. Very few places are doing this.”

A personalized and supported path

The program is full-time and cohort-based with a new class starting in-person each June. Students take a total of 35-40 credit hours spanned over three semesters (summer, fall, and spring). This includes being placed in an internship in the fall and in a student teaching position in the spring. The program is currently pending approval (anticipated late summer 2023) with the Higher Learning Commission, the university’s accreditor. Having a bachelor’s degree in the discipline one wants to teach is required for admission to the program.

“We are helping people who are not currently certified teachers to step into the teaching profession within a year of starting this program,” said Kooyman. “For example, perhaps someone graduates with a history major or a political science major, or a geology major and they decide they want to teach this area they have background in, then we will help them prepare to teach in an area the state offers related to their background, such as social studies. We have them take the state test at the beginning of the program to see if they pass or how close they are to passing it, so that we can tailor the best path for each student to be able to meet the requirements.”

High expectations

Organizers of the new MAT program expect their students to have similar results as those who have earned their teaching certification during their undergraduate experience at Calvin. According to survey results from graduates from the past two years, 98% of respondents indicated employment in an education-related field and there was a 95.2% MTTC pass rate, which is one of the highest rates state-wide).

Note: Though the program is not intended for a certified teacher who wants a master’s degree, Calvin does offer that pathway as well through its Master of Education.

Discover more

Are you ready to put your skills and passions into a new career direction as a teacher? Calvin’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program provides an accelerated pathway to initial middle and high school teacher certification. Designed for career-changers, those re-entering the workforce, and recent bachelor’s degree graduates, you’ll complete the MAT in one year, coming away with a master’s degree and a teaching certificate. Learn more.

Recent stories