Where was Community College Teacher Education 20 years ago and where do we see its role today?
When I graduated from high school, I did not consider going to community college. To me, it was 13th grade. Ironically, it is exactly where I have been employed for over 20 years. In order to answer the above question, I polled many of my colleagues across the state of Maryland. Many of those questioned agreed that the reputation of community colleges has not improved as much as we would like. We continue to find high school counselors and teachers recommending students go directly to a four-year institution. We continue to be asked if our classes are “as good” as the equivalent course in the four-year institutions.
The Associate of Arts in Teaching degree has proven to be a much more efficient means of moving students through the teacher preparation pipeline. It began over 20 years ago in Maryland and requires four year colleges to accept the coursework as a package. While this happens at many of our four year colleges, especially the private colleges that are not mandated to accept it, we still find students’ transcripts being evaluated course by course at times in our public institutions.
Another area in which much has not changed is how community colleges are consistently on the front lines in addressing teacher shortages, not merely in subject matter, but also the shortage of teachers of color. Our students represent a more diverse pool of teacher candidates. For these potential teachers, we offer more options. Our cost continues to be significantly lower than four-year colleges, and we allow people to enroll in our individual courses without requiring them to complete a degree as four year institutions do. Our options are more flexible and more affordable.
An obvious improvement in all areas of education is the online option for courses. During COVID, we were able to continue to offer all of our courses in an online or synchronous remote manner. While that is an extreme example of the power of online learning, we also realize that online learning better suits many of our students. Community colleges continue to address the needs of the non-traditional student. While some of the four-year educator preparation programs have yielded to the need for courses to be offered online, in the evening, and on weekends, many continue to require lock-step progression through the program with daytime in-person classes only.
Reflecting on these past two decades, I certainly feel more confident with regard to our community college teacher education programs. I see in my former students who are now in classrooms, the grit and determination to weather the current problems in the field. It is the same grit and determination that they mined while overcoming obstacles to complete their degree with us. I know that they are much better teachers as a result.
Linda Gronberg-Quinn, PhD
Director, Teacher Education – Community College of Baltimore County