Act II offers students a chance to teach

Many Castleton students have probably seen the flyers or read emails about something called ACT II. Some may know what ACT II is, but for those who don’t, it’s a program that allows people to get their teaching license in one year. It’s a very intense year and the program is for those who already have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

People of all ages with various degrees of working experience take part in the program, as even many students enrolled in the program are fresh out of college. Others have been working for 20 or 30 years in their respective fields.

Students in the program can get their teaching license in elementary education, art, music, Spanish, or theater arts for kindergarten through twelfth grade. They can also get a license to teach English, math, science, social studies, or physical education for grades seven through twelve.

The program for everyone except physical education candidates, involves students taking classes during the summer and fall and student teaching in the spring. Physical education candidates take classes in summer, fall and spring and then do their student teaching the following fall.

All students finish up with 36 credits, which puts them 12 to 18 credits away from getting their masters degree, which people can also get with ACT II.

Harry Chaucer, director of ACT II at Castleton says that CSC “doesn’t take shortcuts” when it comes the program and “students come out well prepared because they experience the whole school year.”

They really get a chance to experience the life of a teacher, in service days and all, he said.

So why are people taking part in ACT II?

Dawn Saunders, who is currently enrolled in the program, teaches part-time at CSC but feels part time isn’t enough and wants to teach full-time. She is enrolled to teach secondary education social studies.

Saunders has her PhD in economics, with a concentration in U.S. economics history. She is enjoying the program so far and feels that what she is learning is making her a better teacher at CSC.

“I’m learning how students learn and seeing things with fresh eyes,” she said.

Saunders also likes seeing the different teaching styles and watching teachers interact with students. She feels teaching high school students will be much different than teaching college students.

“High school students are less jaded and have more energy,” she said.

While she is enjoying the experience, Saunders notes that the amount of work is challenging and it’s hard juggling work and school.

How are things after ACT II?

Margaret Forti, who took part in the program last year, says she is currently a substitute teacher at Burr and Burton Academy and Mount Anthony Union High School. “(I) know several people who are gainfully employed after the program,” Forti said.

Her favorite part was spending every day with students and felt it was easy to forget she wasn’t a student. She did her student teaching at Otter Valley Union High School and felt it was “a valuable experience.”

Her advice to anyone who is considering the program is to talk to someone who is doing ACT II and see what it is like ahead of time.

Matthew Cox who also took part in the program last year was a journalist for more than 25 years when he felt it was time for a career change. He is now licensed to be an English teacher, however, has been unable to get a job.

Cox has gone to over 30 job interviews but has been told repeatedly that he didn’t get the job due to a lack of education experience. According to the No Child Left Behind Act, people who teach core classes like English, have to meet certain standards to be considered, what they call “highly qualified teachers,” and Cox has met those standards. “It’s frustrating to be considered a highly qualified teacher and still not be able to get a job,” Cox said.

Cox also said that out of the 12 people who were enrolled in the program at the same time he was, only four have found full-time teaching jobs. And out of those four, two were recent graduates and one had been a para-educator.

“It’s difficult for newcomers who are adults,” Cox said, also noting that there is more competition for English teachers than for math or science teachers.

Cox recently picked up a one-day substitute-teaching job in South Burlington, but offered up some advice to future hopeful educators.

“Be prepared to go two years without an income because sometimes a license isn’t enough,” he said.

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