Western Technical College student Renee Horton has always known she would one day call herself a teacher.
“I have had a passion for children and education ever since I was a child,” she said. “I would play ‘school teacher’ all the time with my mother.”
Years later, Horton enrolled at Western’s Foundations of Teacher Education program, which has soared to recent highs over the last few years. Enrollment in the program is at an all-time high with 26 students, up from 21 a year ago.
“I think it has to do with a teacher shortage, the real need for affordable education, and our recent articulation agreement with Viterbo University,” said Shelly Bauer, a Western instructor in the program.
That articulation agreement, which was signed in August of 2018, allows a student in Western’s program to complete an associate’s degree in four academic terms. Following successful completion of the 67 credits, students can now transfer into Viterbo’s Elementary/Middle Childhood Education major, along with a minor in Special Education.
According to Bauer, nearly half of last year’s class transferred to Viterbo under the new agreement. Another eight students in the upcoming class plan to do the same. She also adds that four Western grads are now teachers after completing their studies at either Viterbo or Winona State.
“A lot of hard work seems to be paying off,” said Bauer. “We have a growing program at a time when our schools are in great need of highly qualified people.”
Bauer adds that collaborative work between Western and other colleges and universities in the area have helped mitigate recent drops in education program enrollments across the state. In fact, five students in Bauer’s upcoming class are young men, something she says is unusual.
“It is proof that even in this difficult time, when teachers are leaving the field in record numbers, there are still people who are passionate about working with today’s students,” Bauer said.
Horton explains Western’s Foundations of Teacher Education classroom, which mimics an elementary education setting, is what inspired her to join the program.
“Ever since I first set foot in the classroom at Western, I knew I found my niche,” she said.
After completing her associate’s degree, Horton plans to take advantage of the articulation agreement by enrolling in Viterbo’s education program. From there, she hopes to complete her degree and teach in a rural setting.
“This is my place,” she adds. “This is my journey.”
To learn more about Western’s Foundations of Teacher Education program, visit www.westerntc.edu/foundations-teacher-education.