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Shifting Gears to Become a Teacher

L.A. Unified is looking for 1,000 mid-career professionals to teach math, science and other subjects at its lowperforming schools.

November 22, 2002|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

Roy Romer, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, put out the welcome mat Thursday for professionals, including accountants, attorneys, bankers and engineers, who are considering a career switch.

"If you have any interest in becoming a teacher, come talk to us," Romer said, announcing a stepped-up effort to recruit and retrain 1,000 professionals to teach in low-performing schools.

Officials hope those new teachers will be ready for the next school year, particularly in the subject areas of math, science and special education, where the need is most critical.

The rookies will be hired through the fast-track Los Angeles Teaching Fellows Program under the nationwide New Teacher Project, which also has worked with school districts in Kansas, New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

This year, the Los Angeles district hired 130 teachers through the program, which requires candidates to attend a six-week training session in which they learn about classroom management, instruction and planning.

The recruits next become interns in the district for three years, during which they will continue to train, take education courses and teach classes. If they pass an exam at the end, they will earn their state-approved teacher credentials as if they had attended the traditional post-bachelor's program at Cal State campuses.

School board President Caprice Young said campuses benefit from having a mix of mid-career, highly experienced and new college graduates together on a teaching team.

"I encourage all our former dot-com friends and techies to come join us," Young said at a news conference Thursday morning at John C. Fremont High School in South-Central Los Angeles.

Val Holwerda, a former advertising director and owner of a printing company, left her career and entered the fellows program last year. She began teaching English at Fremont in August. She enjoys her job, and said the program helped incorporate her management, supervisory and organizational skills in the classroom.

"The program valued my experience," she said. "You have to think of it as a challenge and as something that is intellectually stimulating."

The 38,000-teacher district has hired an average of 4,000 teachers each year since 1998. This year, nearly half of its new hires were credentialed, up from 40% in several previous years. Others had bachelor's degrees only and were hired on a so-called emergency basis.

Los Angeles Unified is under pressure to hire more trained teachers because of a federal law passed last year that requires teachers in every state to be fully credentialed by the end of the 2005-06 school year.

The New Teacher Project has launched programs in 17 states, and developed 10 training institutes since 1997. It has trained more than 3,000 teachers nationwide.

Beginning teachers in the Los Angeles district with no experience will earn $35,905, while those who have more experience or college course credits may earn slightly more. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.7 grade-point average to apply.

The early application deadline is Feb. 7, and the regular deadline is March 7. For more information, check the Web site www.lateachingfellows.org.

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