Teachers now required to take CTEL classes

September 16, 2008 — by Mabel Hsu and Apeksha Sharma

Students at Saratoga High: There are more of you than you think. This year, many teachers at SHS are students once again.

As of January 2008, the state of California required teachers to hold the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) certification. Teachers have the option of passing either three tests or completing four graduate level courses—either online or in a weekly class that last until mid April.

English teacher Cathy Head became aware of the certification three years ago but did not know that it would be required of all teachers at the time.

Head was surprised to hear this because the district administration had said the school did not have enough ELL (English Language Learners) students to justify helping teachers attain the certification—nothing about how teachers would have to be certified by 2008.

History teacher Matt Torrens said that he wanted to fulfill the requirement was relief.

“I had looked into taking the classes the year before but was told to hold on because the requirements were going to change,” he said.

Many teachers have expressed anger at the situation. Science teacher Jill McIntyre was unhappy with the disorganization of the district. Instead of taking the classes, she opted for taking the tests.

“I took the test and passed last June,” said McIntyre. “I spent 10 to 12 hours studying for it. I am very happy not to have my teaching schedule disrupted by classes.”

The demand for more time is more apparent now as the workload for teachers has increased.

“My supply [teaching] is the same, [but my] teaching, wife, kids, my fence that needs to be repaired, ESPN Sportscenter…they all suffer,” said Torrens.

Head feels the same about the sudden workload.

“[I] work on CTEL whenever I have finished with prep for my classes—school obligations still come first,” said Head. “Once I start grading essays and writing letters of recommendation, I don’t know what I’ll do; I’m hoping the workload will lighten somewhat in later classes.”

Most teachers also feel that being a student again was not a big adjustment. Head said she has always been a student, whether she is in a formal class or not. Her last class was roughly around two years ago, so she feels familiar with roles of being a student and teacher.

“The difference is that the series of classes were more flexible in terms of scheduling,” said Head. “I could set them up to be completed around a break and then get a lot of work done when I wasn’t also trying to teach. Our being under a strict deadline for completion of these four courses makes it more difficult, not impossible, though.”

Though it’s still to early to determine whether or not the CTEL classes will make a big difference to most teachers, McIntyre believes that she is more aware of how her teaching style affects students.

“My teaching style is approximately what is recommended for ELL students, but my new awareness will help me focus on whether an ELL student is getting what they need when they are in my classroom,” McIntyre said.

Saratoga High has about 35 ELL students.

Despite the heavy workload and time constraints, most teachers are bravely taking on the student role once more.

“I really believe that teachers here care about not only the kids but their profession, as well,” said Head. “We want to do the best job we can, and if these courses have gems to offer us, we’ll find them gladly.”

5 views this week