Forecast Sunny for Liberal Arts Teachers, Advisors Say

“It always looks darkest right before the dawn.” If so, then the job market for Liberal Arts teachers has a dramatic sunrise in the near future.

The economic downturn has played havoc in the job market, and the education realm is no exception. But the message of the College of Liberal Arts is one of hope and optimism. Dr. Eric Bolsterli, Senior Lecturer of History as well as Assistant Dean in the College of Liberal Arts, said, “What we would like is to see more students graduate with a teacher’s certification.” This confidence is not alone in the Metroplex.

The bleak job market for teachers doesn’t scare a group of students enrolled at Southern Methodist University, the Dallas Morning News recently reported, even though ranks of those forces have been slashed locally, across the state and nationally. At UT Arlington, students who received traditional teaching certificates grew from 288 in 2007 to 325 in 2010, the article said. An estimated 294,000 jobs in the education sector have been lost nationwide since 2008, according to the American Association of School Administrators. In Texas, almost 12,000 teaching jobs were lost during the 2010-11 school year, according to a Texas school finance and accountability research firm.

Though the statistics suggest a hostile job market, numbers can be deceiving and Bolsterli encouraged students to be informed on what’s going on in the job market and plan accordingly.

“We would like to see more of our students become aware of the opportunities in teaching and, if they want to pursue it, that they actually do pursue it and get certified,” he said.

The College of Liberal Arts has begun a new initiative to raise awareness for the teacher’s certification that is available to students. The grassroots movement starts with the advisors as they guide students through the degree plan process, often recommending certification to those who they feel would make a good teacher. For Bolsterli, maturity and responsibility rank high on the character list of prospective teachers. Nancy Gandre, an undergraduate advisor in the Department of History, lists motivation and a high GPA as factors in deciding whether or not to pursue a teaching certification.

“If teaching is what they want to do, then I encourage them to get the certification here,” said Gandre.

While the view of a teaching career has sometimes been unfavorable, due to perceived low salaries, Bolsterli highlighted the fact that those salaries are growing from previous years. “It’s a good career now and we want to get the word out to people,” he said. Not only are the salaries not as low as might be expected, but there is also the opportunity to directly affect the future generations of UT Arlington by acquiring a teacher’s certification.

“The reality is that teachers that we train at UTA are probably going to end up teaching in schools whose students come to UTA. So we can influence the quality of our future incoming classes by producing highly-qualified teachers,” Bolsterli said.

With that in mind, the College of Liberal Arts is certainly prepared to produce the best quality of students through its programs. Students going through the process of obtaining a teacher’s certification at the high school level will major in the subject they are going to teach, then take courses their junior and senior year that teach them pedagogical theory and help to develop their teaching skills. They will also spend time in high school classrooms in addition to student-teaching their final semester. These steps all have a purpose in producing effective teachers. Bolsterli said, “We want them to learn the subject first, then focus on the teaching aspect of it and how you get the knowledge that you know out there to the kids in a way that they will learn it and retain it.”

The College of Liberal Arts has six degrees with teacher’s certifications, including English, History, Journalism/Communication Studies, Art, Music and Spanish. Contrary to what it may seem, acquiring a teacher’s certification does not add hours onto a degree plan, it merely replaces the minor that a student would normally obtain. Students wishing to obtain a teacher’s certification in any of these programs are encouraged to talk to their advisors, not only for practical purposes of how to proceed, but also to hear firsthand why they decided upon a teaching career.

Martha Warren is a Lecturer in the English Department as well as an Undergraduate Advisor. She got her teacher’s certification at UT Arlington and taught in high school for three years before coming back to teach at UT Arlington.

“My grandmother had always wanted to be a teacher herself but didn’t get to have the education to do that,” she said. “So she probably was an influence, but I’ve always loved reading and writing and I’ve always just felt like that was a calling.”

Bolsterli expressed similar sentiments. “It’s really satisfying,” he said. “Helping other people learn is great. It’s a real buzz. That’s why teachers do it.”

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[Written by Benjamin Muir, COLA Communications]

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