WestConn to offer Master of Arts in Teaching
Program combines master’s degree with state certification

DANBURY, CONN. — Western Connecticut State University has long offered programs for teaching degrees and state teaching certification — helping to fill schools across the state with top-notch teachers. Now the university will offer a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) that gives nontraditional students the best of both worlds — a master’s degree and a teaching certification — all in one program.

Starting in June 2009, college graduates seeking to change careers and become teachers can earn a master’s degree and a state certification to teach biology, math or Spanish in secondary schools.

The M.A.T. is for candidates already holding a bachelor’s degree who have decided they would like to become certified as teachers. The 42-credit M.A.T. program will be completed in 15 months from June 2009 to August 2010 and consist of three secondary (grades 6-12) education areas considered durational shortage areas. The university also is seeking approval from the state for an M.A.T. program for primary school teachers.

WestConn undergraduate Cheyrisse Boone will earn her bachelor’s degree this fall and plans on entering the M.A.T. program the following June. After working as a paraprofessional in her daughter’s elementary school, “I decided I really liked it,” Boone said. Her plans were to take the certification-only program and then go on to complete a master’s degree program. Then she heard about the M.A.T.

“This route seemed to be a quicker and easier route for me,” said Boone, who admits juggling family, work and school responsibilities can be quite a chore. “I was at the point of feeling overwhelmed and that’s when I learned about the program. For the first time, I could see light at the end of the tunnel.”

WestConn Dean of Graduate Studies and External Programs Dr. Ellen Durnin said students have expressed so much interest in an M.A.T. program that she is thrilled to have met that demand.

“The Graduate Studies and Certification offices have had a high level of demand for a M.A.T. program at WestConn. Last spring, we received 275 phone inquiries about a program which incorporates a masters degree with teacher certification,” said Durnin. “When we hosted our first graduate open house in April, we received more requests for information about the proposed M.A.T. program than for any existing graduate programs.”

Traditional undergraduate education majors still must complete a bachelor’s degree program and then take and pass Praxis I and II, content knowledge and pedagogy tests in their content areas, in order to teach in public schools in Connecticut. Teachers then have five years within which to complete a master’s degree program.

WestConn graduates more than 17 percent of the state’s elementary education teachers. WCSU Professor of Education Dr. Bonnie Rabe said this new program is part of the education department’s effort to stay ahead of the state’s ever-changing regulations. “We’re always raising the bar,” Rabe said.

According to the Connecticut Department of Education, WestConn is one of four higher education institutions that offer a Master of Arts in Teaching program, Rabe said.

M.A.T. courses will be offered online, in the classroom and as a hybrid combining both formats. “We’re trying to incorporate a variety of ways of teaching,” Rabe said. “We’re not going to compromise our quality, and we’ll stay on top of what the field is demanding.”

What’s also unique about WestConn’s program is that it’s not an internship program, as are many of the M.A.T. programs throughout the state. These programs require candidates to work full time for one year in a public school, which offsets tuition. Instead, WCSU’s M.A.T. program requires students to student teach for 15 weeks during the spring semester of the program.

Rabe said the university’s education department worked hard to make it possible for candidates to continue working full time if they choose as they go through the program. The M.A.T. program allows students to work during the day and attend classes in the afternoon and evening. “With our online and hybrid courses, people can work any time on their coursework,” Rabe said. All the courses will be set up so that students do not have to attend class during daytime work hours. “We are the only university offering all of our coursework in this program in the afternoon and evening.”

Because the program is designed for career-changers with bachelor’s degrees, there generally will be some work to do before entering the program. Some students may have to take undergraduate courses that are prerequisites of the M.A.T. or make up any undergraduate courses that are outdated.

Rabe said the attrition rate for new teachers is high. Nationwide, schools lose up to 50 percent of incoming teachers within their first five years of teaching. She said because the students have similar backgrounds and are all working toward the same goal, they are able to support each other and are more likely to stick with the program than if they were doing it alone.

Education Department Chair Dr. Theresa Canada said she finds that the potential M.A.T. candidates are professionals who discover mid-career that they really want to be teachers.

“These students come with a different perspective. They have a different kind of energy where they want to be teachers, and they bring that energy into the classroom,” said Canada. “Plus, they discover later in life that they want more meaning in their lives.”

Canada said the new program is better than what is currently in place because a typical certification-only program is individual. It’s then up to the students to map out their own paths toward earning a master’s degree or an additional 30 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree within five years. There are currently 300 students enrolled in the certification-only program.

Since 2003 WCSU has offered an education doctorate program in instructional leadership, which completes a full continuum of educational offerings. Canada hopes the university’s education department continues to grow in that direction by offering even more options for educators.

“This program links to our strategic goals of offering a range of quality academic programs by an outstanding faculty to meet the needs of the community at an affordable cost,” Durnin said. “We are excited about beginning this program and look forward to working with this new population of adult learners and the school districts that will employ them.”

“This is a very good addition,” Canada said of the M.A.T. program. “It makes us more holistic; I’m hoping this is the beginning of a progression.”

Prospective students may find out more about WestConn’s M.A.T. program by contacting the Division of Graduate Studies at (203) 837-8243, or by visiting www.wcsu.edu/graduate.


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

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