The Iowa House has voted to let more people with college degrees in math, science, engineering or technology teach high schoolers if the prospective teacher has taken an on-line teaching course from the University of Northern Iowa and can pass a test of the subject matter.
Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, says there’s a shortage of high school teachers for math, science and technology courses — and professionals who’ve worked at least 6,000 hours in a job that requires those skills can fill the void.
“In my community, I have a retired engineer, age 55, from John Deere. I can’t think of a better person to come in and help at our high school teach a course like Project Lead the Way than somebody who’s had all that experience working in a real life situation,” Byrnes says. “For me as a student, that would have captured my attention.”
But Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City who’s a retired teacher, objects to the idea. “There is a myth out there than anybody can teach,” Mascher says. “…What we find is that a number of people wash out because they realize this is not what they thought it would be…and they’re not cut out to teach 32 10th graders in a math class or a science class.”
Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City who is also a retired teacher, says people need to learn far more about teaching methods and classroom management before they step in front of a class of high schoolers. “There is much more to teaching than just knowing the subject,” Steckman says. “…There’s lots of tricks to the trade that we need to know and those things are taught not in a quick, on-line class, but in a class where you practice those things before you go out and practice on the students.”
Representative Byrnes is a former high school teacher who’s now an administrator at the North Iowa Area Community College and he disagrees with his fellow teachers. “We could give examples all day long on one side, but there’s also a lot of examples to give on the other side and I could give you multiple examples of folks that work for me in my institution that have never had a day of teaching (instruction) and are wonderful teachers,” Byrnes says. “…We’re all teachers. You’re born with that trait.”
The bill passed the House on a 61 to 36 vote. This afternoon the House is scheduled to begin debate of another education-related bill that outlines a series of reforms like requiring school administrators to conduct annual teacher evaluations.