A new partnership between California State University, Sacramento, and the Sacramento City Unified School District aims to put out-of-work teachers back in classrooms by helping them earn credentials in the hard-to-fill areas of mathematics and science.
A $300,000 grant from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation is paying for the course work and classroom time for 40 teachers enrolled in the program.
"We are building up our numbers for high-needs areas and sending a strong message to new teachers and laid-off teachers that they shouldn't give up hope," said CSUS professor Pia Wong, the program's project director.
Most of the students in the program were laid off by Sacramento City Unified or received their multiple-subject teaching credential from CSUS, but have yet to be hired, Wong said.
"We are trying to make it possible for them to have higher priority on hiring lists and lower priority on layoff lists," Wong said. "In a different budget context, they would all be working as teachers."
Students in the program already have a teaching credential. Some students lack the classroom experience to be cleared for a full credential. Others have taught at Sacramento City Unified schools. A few still do.
Hilary Scott, 26, is enrolled in the science portion of the program. She has a multiple-subject credential and has been a student teacher but has yet to land a full-time classroom teaching job. She would like to teach fourth grade.
"Since the job market is limited, I figured this was a really good opportunity to go back and get more education and learn more about science," she said.
Tuesday night, Scott was among 10 students in a science class taught by physics professor Lynn Tashiro, focusing on waves.
Through observation and experiments with ropes, Slinkys and water, they discussed the characteristics of waves.
Tashiro said she used pre-tests to target subject areas in which the students appeared be the weakest.
Wong said the additional training students receive in the program will translate to better instruction for elementary and junior high school students by giving teachers a stronger background in math and science.
They will be highly qualified, she said, to meet the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind mandate.
CSUS's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, College of Education, and College of Continuing Education are conducting the courses.
"Our goal is to get teachers back to work and, in doing so, serve the function of increasing their knowledge base in science and math and making them more employable," said Cancy McArn, a Human Resources director at Sacramento City Unified.