By Stacey Eidson
For those individuals who have an undergraduate degree outside the field of education, but are considering a career in teaching, Augusta University’s College of Education is now offering a fully online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.
“We had actually been working on putting this program online for quite a while, even before the pandemic,” said Dr. Kim Barker, an assistant professor of the College of Education and advisor for the elementary MAT online program. “Dr. Beth Pendergraft, chair of the Department of Teaching and Leading, had done a lot of research and realized that there was a great need in the state of Georgia for, specifically, an online elementary MAT program, so we had already planned to start rolling out the courses online this summer.”
As soon as the online elementary MAT program became available during this past summer semester, Barker said the College of Education saw a steady increase in student enrollment.
“We had 11 students who began the online program this summer,” Barker said. “Those students were mostly from the Central Savannah River Area. We also had two from the metro Atlanta area. Now, this fall, we added 25 new students to the online elementary MAT program, and those students are from all across Georgia.”
Barker said students have enrolled from Aiken, Bibb, Carroll, Cherokee, Cobb, Columbia, DeKalb, Floyd, Fulton, Polk, Richmond, Warren and Washington counties.
“We are spreading all across Georgia and, of course, we have students from Aiken County in South Carolina,” she said. “So, we’re really excited about expanding our scope and drawing new students to Augusta University. It’s been a really nice success story for us.”
The MAT is a graduate level initial teacher certification program. The plan of study requires 39 credit hours of coursework that can be completed in five semesters, Barker said. The deadline to apply to the new online program for the spring semester is Nov. 2.
“The MAT program is usually for career changers,” Barker explained. “These are people who have had a first career. They’re changing careers and they want to be teachers. These people would have an undergraduate degree in a different field, and they would apply to our Master of Arts in Teaching program, so they can become certified while they’re getting their master’s degree.
“It’s an excellent opportunity, because once they are certified and they get hired by a school, they’re going in at the pay grade for that district that applies to a person with a master’s degree.”
People from varied professions find the MAT program at Augusta University appealing, she said.
“In fact, I personally went through a MAT program many years ago at Georgia State University to become a certified teacher in the metro Atlanta area,” Barker said. “So, I love being the advisor for the elementary MAT program here at Augusta University, because I really know this kind of student. Often, these are students who have a lot of experience in all kinds of different areas. They may also have children or other responsibilities and be a bit older than the traditional student in a teacher preparation program.”
The MAT program at Augusta University works with these students to help them earn a provisional certificate that will allow them to teach in schools as they are working toward certification and a master’s degree.
“I think that there’s a particular joy in going back to school to be a teacher when you’re already in the classroom, and everything that you’re learning in college is applying to what you’re doing every day with your own students,” Barker said. “That’s how it was for me. It was just a fabulous educational experience, and that’s what we provide these students who are coming to us from across Georgia.”
While Barker has been impressed by the expansion of the MAT online program throughout Georgia, she insists Augusta University remains committed to serving local students from Augusta and the surrounding areas.
“We’re just so excited to be able to help, especially those teachers from our CSRA community, who are in schools and only have three years to earn certification,” Barker said. “A lot of them are under a time clock to get this done. We’re able to offer them this opportunity to participate in our online program, where, not only are they going to become certified, but also they’re going to have a master’s level education.
“When they finish our program at Augusta University, these new teachers are going into their classrooms as leaders in their schools and as leaders in the profession, which is exactly what we intend and what our state needs.”
Click here for more information about the College of Education’s fully online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.