Future Teachers on the Fast Track

By Annie Rosemurgy | Photo courtesy Madison College

In one area school district, high school students can launch a future education career earlier.

Across the state, teaching positions are being left unfilled. Districts are dealing with historically large class sizes and frequent teacher turnover. Education Academy — an innovative collaboration between the Middleton- Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) and Madison College — seeks to address this problem. Founded in 2020, Education Academy allows high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn dual credits toward both a high school diploma and up to 30 credits of an associate’s degree in the Liberal Arts Transfer Education Pathway from Madison College. Kick-starting their higher education journey in high school also saves students a bit of money: dual-credit courses are free of charge and count as college credits.

Participating students take dual-credit Madison College courses at Middleton High School, along with additional offerings through Madison College, building what Early College Partnership Manager Audra Cooke calls a “bridge between … high school and college.” Program graduates can either finish their associate’s degree then transfer to a four-year institution through the Liberal Arts Education Pathway, or, they can go directly to a four-year university to finish earning their bachelor’s degree in education.

“With our current teacher shortage situation in Wisconsin, we have to be continually progressive and aggressive at attracting interested kids to the wonderful field of education,” says Jenny Mathison- Ohly, MCPASD English teacher and instructor of both Education Academy classes at Middleton High School. “Becoming a licensed teacher is a long path,” says Penny Johnson, co-leader of the program and
department chair of the Education Transfer Program at Madison College. “Education Academy makes the path more efficient.”

Education Academy also increases opportunities for people traditionally left out of the field.

“We all know what a traditional K-12 teacher looks like,” says Johnson. “We want to open the narrative of who a teacher is. We want representation from all gender identities, racial communities and trans people. These future teachers can represent diversity in a new way.” Although the program has only been operational for two years, it’s gotten positive reviews from students. A more profound metric of success for Karena Curtis, co-leader of the program and professor of mathematics at Madison College, are the conversations she has with Academy students.

“When I talk with students, their passion for the program really shows through,” she says. “The hope is that other districts join MCPASD with the Education Academy model,” says Curtis.

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