Alternative Certification programs offer creative path to discovering a passion for teaching

Becky Carlton
Jan 27, 2021 5:47:31 PM

MI charter school teacher, Austin Farrow, has always loved Physics. In his off time, he can be caught with new physics books, or even practicing math (yes, seriously). Now teaching at University Preparatory High School in Detroit, MI, Austin has found a gratifying career that uses his insane physics knowledge and love of learning to impact kids’ lives every day - but his path to classroom is one that is both nontraditional, and rewarding.

When he started out, Austin didn’t go to college with the dream of becoming a teacher. He attended Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Physics. He always had somewhat of an interest in humanitarian needs, and in school he participated in the Human Needs and Global Resources Program, which really cultivated a desire to work in the field of policy creation. After college, Austin struggled to find the career that fit him, working at a number of jobs as a community-organizer, physics camp counselor, and AutoZone Employee.

Feeling defeated, Austin moved back home from Chicago to Highland Park, MI, and was left grappling with what his next step would be. Little did he know that he was the perfect candidate for filling a significant gap in the teaching workforce, and discovering an entirely new passion.

For many Michigan schools, locating and retaining passionate educators has become increasingly challenging. As they struggle to find certified teachers to fill their classrooms, alternative certification routes have become widely used across the Mitten (and the nation) as a means to connect professionals who are in a career shift to a faster, nontraditional route to earning their teaching certification and start working with kids. 

A photo of a teacher and an elementary student, overlayed with a quote that reads "This program will not waste you time. If you know that you want to be a certified teacher, I cannot imagine a better, more supportive, more valuable program. I never expected to have a whole family of fellow educators coming out of this program - but I do, and I am so thankful."

Soon after returning to Michigan, Austin learned of an opportunity to teach physics, and he jumped at the opportunity - not knowing everything involved in teaching a classroom of kids. After researching the path to teacher certification, MAPSA’s Professional Innovators in Teaching program came highly recommended by fellow teachers and graduates of the program. 

The Professional Innovators in Teaching team has been very understanding, gracious, and patient with me as I face the challenges of completing an online program, while teaching during this pandemic.”

- Austin Farrow

MAPSA founded the Professional Innovators in Teaching program over 3 years ago to support the needs of so many charter schools who are experiencing a teacher shortage. By connecting energized professionals to the classroom, the Professional Innovators in Teaching program has placed almost 100% of their candidates in schools who serve at-risk populations.

Based on data collected from the candidates, 97% of all candidates report feeling as though they are effective or highly effective in the classroom after their initial year.

Teaching was an unexpected move for Austin, and this is only his second year in the profession. He is still actively working to hone his craft. However, he enjoys giving students a liberal arts educational experience. Austin knows that every student is not going to teach physics or use it extensively in their daily life, but he believes that a deep understanding of the sciences will enrich every students’ life and increase their understanding of the connectedness among all disciplines. 

To understand the connectedness among disciplines, open doors of creativity, problem solving, and enjoyment for students.”

- Austin Farrow

The Professional Innovators in Teaching program provides support through a curriculum that reduces the risks often pushing people out of teaching. The coaches walk alongside each candidate like Austin, to lead them through the first year of jitters and excitement of starting a new career. MAPSA is seeing candidates who are staying in the profession and not giving up with 94% of all certified candidates remaining in the classroom.

Austin doesn’t know where he will be in the next 5 years, however, since he has started teaching he has come up with some really cool curriculum ideas that he wants to see through to completion. So, as of now he strongly sees himself staying in the field of teaching for the near future - and for those of us in the MI charter family, that is good news.

A white male student stands in a chefs coat and hat holding a pizza.

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