In 2015, then-Gov. Scott Walker announced a budget provision allowing professionals to receive a teaching license without an education degree as long as they had a bachelor’s degree and demonstrated proficient knowledge in their field.
While new teachers have been hired under the experience-based license – EBL – program, bringing a new sense of experience to the classroom, it is up to school districts to provide them with the necessary professional development to meet standards for a Wisconsin teaching license. This must be done within a three-year time frame of hire, said Carol Mooney, with the Emerging Center for Career and Technical Education Excellence at UW-Stout.
This need to provide new professional development programming presented a challenge for districts and coordinators, including Cheryl Kothe and Chris Neff, CTE coordinators at Kenosha Unified School District and Racine Unified School District.
In summer 2016, Kothe and Neff approached Mooney at UW-Stout’s annual CTE Summit about offering courses for individuals in their districts who had moved from a career in industry to the classroom.
Kothe has a degree in marketing education and graduated from UW-Stout in 1987. She later returned for her Career and Technical Education Coordinator license. Knowing UW-Stout’s history of preparing CTE teachers, Kothe and Neff wanted to best prepare their districts’ EBL instructors. They asked Mooney to collaborate.
"For many years, UW-Stout provided an eight-week summer program for career and technical teachers that delivered the six courses needed for certification,” Mooney said. “We used that as a model for a new EBL program – our CTE Experience-based Licensed Teacher ‘Boot Camp’.”
Five years later, four cohorts have completed the “boot camp,” with 45 EBL teachers from six school districts in eastern and southeastern Wisconsin participating. What started as a partnership between the Emerging Center and the Kenosha and Racine districts has expanded to include the Green Bay Area, Milwaukee Public Schools, West Allis/West Milwaukee and Wisconsin Rapids districts.
The current cohort has 37 attendees, with 14 participants from Kenosha, Racine, West Allis/West Milwaukee and Wisconsin Rapids; 12 participants from Milwaukee Public Schools; and 15 participants from Green Bay.
“The demand for CTE teachers is high, not just in Wisconsin but throughout the country. For people who would like to serve in a role where they can guide, introduce and influence career development, it’s a great profession,” said Mooney, project manager for the Kenosha Racine CTE EBL.
CTE Experience-based Licensed Teacher ‘Boot Camp’
The “boot camp” seminars are held over a two-year period and are designed to help EBL teachers become effective CTE teachers as they earn their licenses.
“The experience is multidimensional,” Mooney said. “Attendees work with peers in a cohort. They develop core values and a cohort name, they learn and work together, all connected in a common core of CTE disciplines.”
Mooney, Kothe and Neff develop each cohort’s sequence of courses based on a priority of need. A typical schedule includes four two-day seminars, which provide instruction in areas such as Special Education and Classroom Management; Instructional Methods and Lesson Planning; Evaluation and Assessment; and CTE Foundations. This is “must know” curriculum content, Mooney said.
Courses are supplemented with pre- and post-seminar activities based on overall CTE foundations, including work-based learning and career and technical student organization advisement. Courses are instructed by faculty, directors and administrators from UW-Stout, Gateway Technical College in Kenosha and Racine and collaborating school districts.
Charlene Smith, a technology education teacher at Tremper High School in Kenosha, was a member of the first “boot camp” cohort. She attended from 2017 to 2019 during her second and third year of teaching. Smith has her bachelor’s in architectural engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering and was a design engineer working in fire protection prior to teaching.
Initially, she was asked by Gateway Technical College to teach a few classes because other instructors were overloaded.
“Even though it was one course each semester, I found that I really enjoyed teaching,” she said. “What inspires me is instilling inspiration in my students to create and design. I love when students experience the ‘ah-ha’ moment, where the material or concept clicks and makes sense to them.”
The “boot camp” provided Smith with teaching philosophies and gave her “background on the teacher lingo – education has acronyms for everything,” she said.
“Teaching – and teaching well – requires a lot of dedication,” Smith added. “Unfortunately, even with five years of teaching experience in my current position, I feel that there are teachers who do not look at EBL teachers as equals. I fear there will always be that stigma.”
The boot camp followed a hybrid model in past years, with Gateway campuses serving as neutral delivery sites. However, in 2020, classes were held entirely online with synchronous and asynchronous models.
Mooney thought the online classes worked well within the COVID-19 environment, but she plans to return to face-to-face instruction and activities when it is again safe.
Plans for the 2021-22 online programming are underway and will be scheduled this spring. School districts contract with UW-Stout through the Emerging Center for Career and Technical Education Excellence. Attendees are identified by their CTE coordinators. There is no open enrollment.
An attendee’s next step to receiving their Wisconsin teaching license is to work with their CTE coordinators and human resources to submit their professional license application to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Attendees also have the option to enroll in a graduate-level course through UW-Stout.