AVON PARK — Local schools can look for more home-grown teachers after South Florida State College’s Monday announcement that the college will offer a bachelor of science degree in elementary education (BSEE) beginning in the fall semester.
The announcement came as a huge breath of fresh air to local administrators and educators, who have heard rumblings of the addition for the past several months.
Deputy Superintendent of Highlands County School District Dr. Rodney Hollinger said that the college’s plan is a much-needed addition Highlands County.
“Our (school district) interest in this is that a lot of folks are going to be getting a four year degree. It’s going to produce more home-grown, local teachers and that is beneficial for us,” Hollinger said.
“We are constantly having to recruit out of the county. This is going to be much better. I guess you could say it’s a win-win,” Hollinger said.
Jodi Lee, manager of the Human Resources, Recruitment and Professional Development Department , echoed Hollinger’s feelings.
“For Highlands County it’s a win-win,” Lee said. “We are very excited about this. It’s going to be great to be able to keep more people in our district, that’s a win for everybody. It’s hard to draw people here from out of county. When they already have a connection to Highlands County it is much easier for retention and keeping our local people here.”
Currently, SFSC offers only teaching preparation programs where students can earn an associate in arts with an emphasis in education, but then must transfer to one of several partner schools in Florida to complete their four-year degrees. Starting this fall, they will be able to stay here.
According to a press release from SFSC, the BSEE program will prepare students to teach grades K-6 while working in diverse educational settings and with students of varying capabilities. Through the program, students will learn how to plan and implement lessons that integrate math and science, health, music and movement, as well as literature, fine arts, language arts and social sciences.
Students enrolling in the new program will do a number of things as part of their degree requirements including observe teachers in the field, teach lessons through the practicum and internship courses, and complete a full-time teaching internship.
State employment projections, as well as national, reveal the need for an increase in the number of teachers at the elementary level, especially in Highlands, Hardee and DeSoto counties, the school said.
“It’s not uncommon for our district to have a shortage of teachers available,” said Dr. Leana Revell, SFSC vice president of educational and student services, said in the press release. “This is SFSC’s contribution to make sure we have high-quality teachers in our schools classrooms. SFSC’s elementary education program will provide highly qualified faculty with a wide range of experience who can provide top-notch education for students in our district. This program will provide anyone interested in working with student’s great satisfaction and career mobility.”
“This is an exciting opportunity for us at the college,” said Michele DeVane, SFSC professor of education. “The development of the program has been an intensive collaborative effort between SFSC’s faculty and administration. SFSC has done a significant amount of background research and data collection to provide exactly what potential students want and need from the program. Students will receive high quality instruction, small class sizes, and a low-cost education close to home.”
“Teachers put all of their energy, creativity, and talents into making sure each student has what they need to successfully move forward,” DeVane said. “Teaching is an extremely rewarding career. This new degree will make the students more marketable and allow them to further their education locally and affordably.”
The BSEE program at SFSC will consist of a minimum of 36 general education credits, 24 credits of lower division program electives and 60 credits of upper-division specialized courses. Admission to the two-year program is limited and open only to those who have completed an associate in arts (AA) and prerequisite education courses, meet GPA requirements, and pass the General Knowledge Test.
Graduates will earn a Florida certification in kindergarten through sixth grade with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Reading endorsements.
“Students will get to experience an exceptional cohort format with small class sizes,” said Dr. Kimberley Dos Santos, lead instructor for SFSC’s BSEE program. “Through this highly selective program, students will be with the same 26 students for the course of two years. I can’t wait to get into the classroom and help students develop their craft and watch them become wonderful teachers.”
Dr. Dos Santos holds a Doctor of Education in educational leadership and management from Capella University, a Master of Education in educational leadership, a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Central Florida, and has over seven years of teaching experience in Florida.
The BSEE program will become the college’s third baccalaureate program to be executed at SFSC. The first, supervision and management, was launched in 2012, while a bachelor of science in nursing is also planned to be added for the fall semester.
For additional information about the bachelor’s in elementary education program at SFSC, visit www.southflorida.edu/academic/bsee/ or call Dr. Dos Santos, lead instructor, elementary education, at 863-784-7154.