Monday, April 15, 2013

Alternatively Certified Teachers Profile...Bonnie Kohler

Alternative certification routes are vital to attracting the best, brightest, and cheapest teachers to enter the classroom.  Just because you are willing to devote your whole life to educating our country's children, it does not mean you are willing to spend 2 years taking methods classes to learn to teach. Please read this great essay by Last Stand for Children First Fellow Bonnie Kohler as she explains what being alternatively certified means to her.

In 2008, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Baraboo with a double major in social work and sociology. After graduating, I soon realized that the market for sociologists was roughly the same size as the job market for interpretive dance majors.  I was hired by Starbucks corporation in the role of barista. I served in that position for 2 years before I broke up with my boyfriend and returned to UWB to attain my Masters Degree in Dairy Sciences.

I began work at a small dairy in Menomonie, but I longed to do something more with my life. Then it occurred to me, while watching Law and Order, that I could be a lawyer.  Unfortunately, I needed something to make my application really stand out for law school recruiters.  My college GPA was roughly as high as my blood alcohol level if you know what I mean.

That's when I heard about Last Stand for Children First.  After just 3 weeks of training, I could be working as a real classroom teacher in a genuine inner city environment.  I also learned, law school recruiters love to get applications form Last Stand for Children First Fellows.

Let me just say, it wasn't easy.   The kids didn't care what my lesson plans said they were doing.  If this was the day they decided to throw the waste basket out of the classroom window, there was nothing I could do to stop them.  However, imagine my surprise when we got back our test scores that first year and I learned that my students improved their test scores by 150 percent.  In fact, our whole school's test scores went through the roof.  The assistant principal and my mentor assured me that they went through all my student's tests after school one Friday and that they could tell the kids did great and that my increases were legitimate.  They also said, I shouldn't ask any questions abut it for some reason.

All my work teaching students how to fill in the bubbles on the test and how to make an educated guess and pace themselves pay off.  I was a real teacher and to think without the alternative certification program, I never would have been able to impact these students’ and their families’ lives – but equally as important, they never would have had the chance to impact my life as well.

Next Fall, I will be attending law school and then hopefully, I will never have to see another 5th grader again, unless maybe I'm making education policy.  I think I'd like that.

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