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Master's Degree for Future Teachers
For nearly 40 years, well-trained teachers fresh out of Santa Clara University have gone on to command classrooms throughout Santa Clara County and within the Diocese of San Jose. And soon, budding educators and local schools will be giving even more points to the University’s highly regarded teacher credentialing program.
Starting in June, SCU will introduce MATTC (fondly known as “mat-cee”), a program that combines a master’s of art degree in teaching with a teaching credential.
“We’ve been doing teacher prep for a long time but for many years, SCU has not granted an academic degree to students completing the program,” said Pedro Hernández-Ramos, chairman of the department of education. “MATTC puts us on a level competitive field with neighboring institutions that offer an academic degree to students who complete their teacher preparation programs.”
Responding to student demand
An earlier version of MATTC back in the 1970s was not open to prospective elementary school teachers and soon faded away. The new degree program is available for students pursuing careers as elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. It offers several advantages both for students and for the University.
Candidates going through MATTC have greater access to financial aid sources geared toward graduate programs. Currently, SCU’s credential-only pathway blocks students from applying for that restricted funding. And, with the enhancement of a master’s degree, students will likely earn a higher salary in their first teaching jobs.
“The response that we’ve had from the University has been incredibly positive,” said Lisa Goldstein, education professor and director of teacher education and University coordinator of CTC (Commission on Teacher Credentialing) programs. “It makes sense to offer the master’s because people now in the credential program are doing graduate-level work.”
With Hernández-Ramos, she believes that SCU needed MATTC to remain competitive with other colleges in the area. “Many local institutions, like Stanford, UC Santa Cruz and USF, are already using a version of the program, and we were losing excellent candidates who understood that if you can get a master’s degree and a teaching credential simultaneously, you can save both time and money.”
Presented with an opportunity to attract the most academically gifted credential students, and to increase the diversity of the applicant pool, SCU administrators approved the degree program in February this year—about a year after Goldstein and her team began drawing up a proposal.
“It’s always a very rigorous and carefully scrutinized process to add a new degree program at SCU,” Goldstein said. Eventually, though, MATTC received the okay from both the Academic Affairs Committee and the Board of Trustees.
Creating a more efficient education
Under the new degree program—which will accommodate about 50—a student can earn a combined credential and master’s degree in 10 to 12 months.
Currently at SCU, most teaching credential candidates are new to the profession and are pursuing a license to teach. Others are full-time Catholic school teachers who are required to earn a credential after they are hired by the Diocese of San Jose. In order to accommodate the schedules of those already working in the field, Goldstein said that MATTC courses are held in the evenings and at times when summer schools are not in session.
“SCU has a very close relationship with the Diocese of San Jose,” she explained. “We’re here to serve the Catholic community—it’s an important mission for SCU.”
In designing the curricula, Goldstein said, “We took the academic demands and intellectual rigors associated with master-level work and compressed it all together, so that every course is enriched and fully integrated with the teacher preparation experience.”
The result, she continued, was like “taking it all to a personal trainer and getting back a program that is very muscular, with no fat.”
Building from a strong base
Over the years, SCU’s teaching credential program has earned an exemplary reputation, and Goldstein said it provided a sturdy framework for MATTC.
“We used the structure of our existing program and tinkered with it until we had the things we valued most—the things that are central to SCU. We looked at each course and we made it more engaging, more challenging.”
As an example, she explained that almost every classroom in California today mixes students who are fully proficient in English with those who are newcomers to the language, and those who range in between.
“There is an entire repertoire of strategies for dealing with the challenges of teaching in these situations,” she noted. “Our program now includes a commitment for every single method course to address the needs of English learners in the classroom.”
Student teaching, which requires candidates to gain practical experience for an entire school year remains “the centerpiece of our program,” said Goldstein. The training includes a stint of solo teaching and seminars on the “nuts and bolts” of classroom management and the ethics of teaching practices.
One important new element of the combined credential-degree program is a skill set that will help novice teachers prepare for today’s rising academic expectations. “Learning that used to be keyed to the end of first grade is now keyed to end of kindergarten, and there are a lot of tensions around such things as testing accountability,” said Goldstein. “By mashing a teaching credential together with the cognitive skills of a master’s degree, our students will be better equipped to meet these demands when they’re in the field."