Students who complete their bachelor’s degree programs in elementary education at the Indiana University Northwest School of Education will now graduate with certification in three areas. In addition to teaching licenses in both elementary and special education, students will also be licensed as reading teachers, a professional distinction that should make IU Northwest education grads the most highly sought new teachers in Northwest Indiana.
“This is the first teacher licensure program that I know of in which students can simultaneously earn licensure in three areas,” said Paul Blohm, Ph.D., IU Northwest professor of reading education. It was Blohm who initiated the addition of the reading licensure, which recently won approval from the School of Education faculty. “Our students are already receiving more preparation in reading than they do at other universities that offer the reading license, so we felt they deserved this additional certification.”
Stan Wigle, Ph.D., dean of the IU Northwest School of Education, said that reading instruction is a crucial component of teaching and learning at both the elementary and secondary level. The addition of the reading licensure, he said, simply reflects the high degree of preparation IU Northwest students receive prior to entering the classroom. This expectation of high quality is the same principle that led the education school to fashion its “Teaching All Learners” elementary education program so that it would prepare and certify all new teachers to meet the needs of all students, including special needs students, within the general classroom.
“The faculty crafted our elementary education program with one thought in mind: quality,” Wigle said. “They wanted to produce the most highly qualified teachers to work in 21st century schools. Teaching is a challenging profession these days, but our students leave IU Northwest prepared to meet those challenges.”
Janice Grskovic, Ph.D., coordinator of special education for the School of Education, said the required special-education component of the IU Northwest elementary education program has better prepared students for the experience of teaching in standard classrooms where special-needs students are increasingly seated alongside their non-special-ed counterparts.
“Teachers are expected to educate ALL children,” Grskovic said. “The strong preparation that our teacher candidates receive in the areas of elementary education, special education and reading allows them to be successful in meeting that challenge.”
Tim Mitchell, director of student teaching and field placement for the School of Education, said this sort of intensive preparation has given IU Northwest’s student teachers a good reputation in Northwest Indiana’s school districts. The new reading licensure, he said, should only add to that cachet.
“Our graduates are prepared and they get hired,” Mitchell said. “In fact, some of our students are so sought after by building principals that they are offered full-time teaching positions during their student-teaching experiences. They make the kinds of contacts that allow that to happen. That’s a huge advantage that a regional campus like IU Northwest has over the big campuses downstate. Our students are placed in the schools for five semesters. They receive lots of on-the-job training and make connections that allow them to get hired quickly.”