SWU education degree program responding to teacher shortage

CENTRAL — Enrollment in education degree programs at Southern Wesleyan University continues to grow – something that the university’s School of Education hopes will provide relief to schools struggling to place an adequate number of teachers into their classrooms.

“Southern Wesleyan University, because of the qualifications of our graduates and the 8-31 Page 7A.inddreputation of the School of Education programs, has had wonderful success with graduates securing jobs even before they officially graduate,” said Dr. Sandra McLendon, dean of Southern Wesleyan’s School of Education. “This year the combined recruitment efforts of the Admissions Office and the School of Education faculty has resulted in one of the largest pools of education majors in a number of years to help fill the needs for k-12 teachers.”

In public education, turnover is fueled by a large number of teachers from the baby boom generation retiring, with fewer new teachers being prepared to take their places. A report from CERRA (Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement) cited a 10 percent decline in teacher education graduates nationwide, with some states reporting as much as a 40 percent decline.

Greenville County, home of South Carolina’s largest public school district, still has numerous openings for teachers, especially those who are qualified to teach secondary math and science, special education, speech therapy and foreign languages. At the same time, rural schools across the state are experiencing high turnover rates and shortages in critical subject areas.

Dr. Kimberly Jedlicka recently joined Southern Wesleyan’s faculty, coming from the School District of Oconee County, where as a human resources professional, she screened, interviewed and hired teachers.

Jedlicka commented that finding qualified candidates for positions such as elementary and early childhood education – positions that traditionally have been easy to fill – has become more challenging.

“We always struggled with secondary science, secondary math, special education, speech language therapists and school psychologists. We have, in the past, not really had to struggle to recruit elementary and early childhood folks because generally they came to us,” Jedlicka said.

Many school districts are struggling to fill openings in secondary science, secondary math and special education. Jedlicka said that courses are available for teachers to add a special education certification and funding from SC Create can pay the cost of tuition and books.

McLendon noted that offering new majors – Secondary Social Studies, Physical Education in Coaching and Aging and Early Childhood Family Studies – has garnered increased interest in Education careers.

Jedlicka said that degree programs such as those offered at Southern Wesleyan University consistently turn out teachers ready to enter the classroom after the expert instruction and mentoring from faculty who have extensive experience at the school and district level.

Southern Wesleyan’s School of Education also seeks inventive learning opportunities, instilling in teacher candidates a strong ethical framework through a “Christian ethic of care” towards self, learners, colleagues and the community.

According to Dr. Mona Thornton, associate dean at the School of Education, CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation), the school’s new accrediting body, has a specific standard for recruitment requiring that Southern Wesleyan has plans and goals to recruit and support completion of high quality candidates from a broad range of backgrounds and diverse populations to accomplish the School of Education’s mission.

“Our admitted pool of candidates have to reflect the diversity of America’s P-12 students,” Thornton said.

Each year, numerous graduates are recognized by their schools and districts by being named “Teacher of the Year” and awards graduates received have included the prestigious Milken Educator Award and other honors at the district, state and national levels. The Call Me MISTER program at Southern Wesleyan is beginning to make an impact as its graduates enter lower performing schools and serve as effective role models.

Beyond the undergraduate level, Southern Wesleyan offers master’s degree programs in classroom leadership and administration and supervision both on-site and online.

Also, Southern Wesleyan’s education faculty are actively engaged in leadership roles related to educator preparation and advancing education best practices at regional, state and national levels.

For details about education degrees offered by Southern Wesleyan, go to