How UVA’s New Teacher Education Programs Save You Time and Money

By Nicklaus Martinez

UVA's three undergraduate degrees in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, and Special Education provide an exciting new pathway into the classroom.

There’s a new way to become a teacher in Virginia.

For the first time since the 1980s, the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development has restructured what teacher education looks like at UVA. To combat the teacher shortage in Virginia, options for teacher preparation have been expanded to provide a new route that is quicker and more cost-effective, while retaining the same high quality of preparation. Whereas for decades, UVA students had to complete a master’s program in order to qualify for teacher licensure, today’s undergraduate scholars can hop into their own classrooms immediately after walking the Lawn at Final Exercises.

In 2019, the School of Education and Human Development announced that students can now pursue Bachelor of Science in Education degrees in three majors: Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, and Special Education. The Teacher Education program continues to offer its full suite of graduate degrees in elementary, special education, English as a Second Language, and secondary content areas like Mathematics, English, Science, and more.

The new programs have already proven successful with 48 students enrolled in the first year – exceeding administrators’ expectations and demonstrating the need for increased opportunities for aspiring educators. Thinking about becoming a teacher yourself? Read on to learn about the benefits of these new programs and why you should consider joining the new generation of educators.

Start your teaching career faster and for less money

If you’re one of the many students who has known from an early age that you want to be a teacher, these new programs offer a more direct path for you to make your goals a reality.

Because licensure is now possible with a bachelor’s degree, many of the financial barriers that prevent talented individuals from becoming licensed professionals have been removed. If you’re interested in working with younger students or students with disabilities, you can now get the experience and training you need without paying for graduate-level coursework.

Plus, undergraduate students take the majority of teacher education courses during their final two years at the University. That means students have the option to transfer from community college into preservice training on equal footing with those who began their academic careers at UVA. The School of Education and Human Development is presently taking expansive strides to further strengthen and develop its relationships with local community colleges through the creation of pre-advising materials, guest lectures, and information sessions. UVA faculty connect with prospective students, offering individualized advising for a successful transition into our education programs.

By creating a path to licensure that is more efficient and cost-effective, the new programs will also work to diversify the teacher workforce. With Virginia’s increasingly diverse student population, a racially representative mix of teachers is critical for improving educational outcomes. In 2017, the Virginia Department of Education reported that the length and cost of teacher preparation programs hindered efforts to recruit teachers of color. Our undergraduate programs bring us one step closer to a future where all students see themselves reflected in their classroom leaders.

Get even more time in the classroom

You may be thinking - a four-year degree means less experience, right? Actually, undergraduate students majoring in teacher education will get more hands-on practice in the classroom than they would have received in the previous dual-degree structure of the program.

To break it down, third-year students will participate in five-hour practicums in local classrooms each week. In the fall, they will be mentored by specialists to teach reading skills, and in the spring, their instruction will be focused in their specific teaching endorsement. In their fourth year, students will spend even more time in the classroom. For the fall semester, they’ll intern with a local school half-time, and for the spring, they’ll intern full-time.

Internship placement is anything but random. The teacher education program partners with both Albemarle County and Charlottesville City Schools to ensure that students have a wide variety of options for where they are stationed.

It is integral to our program that we serve the schools we work with just as much as the experiences within those schools serve our students. In order to make that happen, teacher education faculty work in tandem with faculty from local schools to match preservice teachers with mentors who can support their professional strengths and areas for growth. Because mentor teachers are in the discussion for preservice teacher placement, you can feel secure knowing that they want you there and trust in your abilities and perspectives as an educator.

When you enroll in one of the new majors, faculty will get to know you to understand your professional goals. Do you want to work with first graders? How about kids that are a bit older? Do you want to serve your community in an urban school, or would you prefer a rural or suburban location? We want to know what your vision for your career is and guide you on your path to realizing it. With a range of internships under your belt from your time at UVA, you will graduate with a diverse set of experiences and skills working with learners across many contexts.

Build tight bonds with your cohort

With two full years together, undergraduate students in teacher education will develop strong relationships with their peers.

The first class of undergraduate students already started forming these connections, even before their coursework and training began. With monthly Zoom calls throughout the summer, students and School of Education and Human Development faculty discussed hot topics related to improving education and heard from guest speakers such as principals from local schools and the executive director of UVA’s Equity Center. This way of bridging connections as an introduction to the program is sure to continue and evolve for future cohorts to come.

In addition to the community built from working through the program itself, students are given the opportunity to join the UVA chapter of the Student Virginia Education Association, or SVEA. SVEA holds professional development sessions, talks with guest speakers, and fundraising events to bring together future educators. The new undergraduate programs have already been integrated with the organization, as a number of undergraduate students hold positions on the SVEA Executive Board.

Help shape the future

Virginia needs teachers – plain and simple. If you want to be a part of the solution and take on the exciting, gratifying challenge that is being an educator, UVA may be the place for you.

Have any more questions? Feel free to contact us for specifics on our new programs and more.