By JORDAN BRADLEY
Capital News Service
LANSING – As the Michigan Consortium for Teacher Endorsement for Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Visually Impairment gains interest, more teachers will be prepared for jobs in high-shortage areas.
To address shortages in specific areas of special education, the Department of Education partnered with 14 colleges and universities across the state and country to create the consortium in 2012.
It offers classes online and seminars for teachers to earn an additional endorsement for education students in grades K-12. The endorsement would take an average of two years to complete.
The Michigan institutions participating in the consortium are Aquinas College and Saginaw Valley State University in the field of deaf/hard of hearing and Western Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University in the field of blind/visual impairment.
An applicant needs a bachelor’s degree and a valid or pending Michigan teacher certification, preferably with an existing endorsement in special education. General education teachers are welcome, but first need to complete pre-approved classes before enrolling in the consortium.
Because Michigan has been hit so hard with teacher shortages, the state reimburses half the tuition of participants who will teach in the state, provided they meet Michigan teaching standards.
Collette Bauman, who helped create the consortium, said, “It became evident that, as teachers were retiring, we were going to lose teachers in deaf and visually impaired areas.”
Greg LaMore, assistant superintendent of Ottawa Intermediate School District, said, “Universities are dropping the programs because they’re not making money. We need these kinds of programs.”
Barbara Lubic, an associate professor of special education at Grand Valley State University, said that while she personally supports the consortium, she doesn’t expect her university to create classes or a program in the field.
“We would not start that program,” Lubic said. “There are other institutions in the state doing those programs and we would look at not wanting to compete.”
Michigan used to have five teacher prep programs for hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired students. Now, there are only two — a graduate program at Western Michigan and an undergrad program at Eastern Michigan. The other three, including a deaf/hard of hearing program at Michigan State University, were closed due to lack of interest or funding.
Roxanne Balfour, who also helped design the program, said, “When we started putting the consortium together, we were looking at different options beyond Michigan. We didn’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket.”
The department consulted with Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan in ways to format the program. Then they reached out to other institutions, including University of Massachusetts of Boston and the University of Tennessee, to see how high the interest was.
Bauman said, “Often these programs have fewer than 30 students, so the consortium keeps them viable.”
In 2013, the consortium started its first semester with only six students, but the 2014 fall semester has double the number of students and more have inquired about enrollment in the upcoming winter courses.
“People have been talking about doing this for years, and now that we’re doing it people are asking how we did it and are wanting to join,” Bauman said. A national presentation in San Antonio, Texas, garnered more interest and with another presentation set for the spring, will most likely bring more.
By JORDAN BRADLEY