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Arizona’s new state budget includes $15 million for the Arizona Teachers Academy, which provides tuition scholarships to students pursuing teacher certification at Arizona’s three public universities and selected community colleges. Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College operates the largest teacher-preparation program in the state, and ASU is aiming to fund more than 1,000 undergraduate and master’s degree students pursuing degrees that lead to initial teacher certification.
Gov. Doug Ducey first proposed an Arizona Teachers Academy in his 2017 State of the State Address. Since fall 2018, ASU has operated an Arizona Teachers Academy at ASU, using funds already allocated to the university to support more than 300 students pursuing degrees that lead to teacher certification.
In a statement regarding the 2020 state budget, ASU President Michael Crow wrote, “We welcome the state’s investment of $15 million to help develop the depth and breadth of teachers that Arizona families need in this vitally important profession. It is a wise and meaningful use of state revenue that will provide a return on investment over the years ahead.”
At ASU, the tuition assistance will take the form of a tuition scholarship, which will cover tuition and fees for students enrolled in programs that lead to initial teacher certification. Students who receive the tuition scholarship will be expected to teach in an Arizona public school for a length of time equal to the number of years the student was funded. A student who receives two years of funding will be expected to teach for at least two consecutive years in an Arizona public school.
If a student does not meet that condition, the scholarship will convert to a loan that the student will be obligated to repay. Students will be required to sign a contract as part of the scholarship process.
ASU will offer scholarships to Arizona resident students entering the professional experiences portion of teacher-preparation programs.
“Those students entering internships and apprenticeships in schools will have first priority,” said Nicole Thompson, director of the division of teacher preparation at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “They are at the critical point in their program where they spend more time in schools, and we want them to focus on that experience and not have to worry about anything else.”
The scholarship will be offered to undergraduate juniors and seniors, including transfers who enroll with junior standing; master’s degree students; and students who enroll in the nondegree secondary education certificate at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. This last group includes ASU undergraduates enrolled in colleges other than Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College who wish to earn a teaching certificate in addition to their undergraduate major.
“We hope this inspires some great ASU science majors and humanities majors to take a look at our certification pathways,” Thompson said. “Now, if you’re willing to teach, you can receive an Arizona Teachers Academy scholarship, whether you choose to pursue a concurrent education degree or earn a nondegree certificate.”
Kevin Laack, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College’s director of student recruitment, hopes the scholarship will attract more students into teacher preparation programs.
“Many of our teacher-prep students come to us as undergraduate transfers from community colleges or as career-switching master’s students," he said. "For both these groups, we think the Arizona Teachers Academy can lower the barriers to entry. So we are thrilled to be able to offer these tuition scholarships to transfers and career changers applying for fall 2019 and spring 2020 admission.”
Carole Basile, dean of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, welcomes the state funding: “The Arizona Teachers Academy at ASU is wonderful. It moves us toward a day when no one who wants to teach declines to do so because she can’t afford the preparation. And that is great.”
Basile further notes that the state commitment to the Arizona Teachers Academy comes at a time when the college is “building richer, more relevant pre-service experiences for our students.”
The main innovation, Basile said, “is that we are working with school partners to form teams of professional teachers and teacher candidates working across multiple classrooms, under the leadership of a teacher leader in a school.”
Last year, 52 Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College students worked in teams in two districts. This fall, 300 students will work in teams across 11 districts and ASU Prep.
“ATA has the potential to support this new model by providing more teacher candidates who can be exposed to more professional expertise and opportunities to really understand how to support the learning of all students," Basile said. "We want to provide teachers and our teacher candidates with more agency and efficacy. And we want to infuse the work of teaching with more of the rewards of adult collaboration and creativity that young professionals expect and deserve from their work.
“So there’s the Arizona Teachers Academy covering tuition for many of our students. We’re working with schools to redesign teacher preparation to work better for educators and learners. And education continues to be at the center of public discussion in Arizona.
“If you’re considering becoming a teacher in Arizona, has there ever been a more exciting time to explore that path?”
Written by Paul Gediman, executive director, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College