September 4, 2006
Reported by Pam Dixon
As soon as Jada Caldarera graduated from McNeese she knew her planned marketing career wasn't in her heart. Caldarera says, "Teaching is great, to be around the kids, to give them the opportunities. I just wanted to teach."
Three years into her law enforcement career, Jo Tartaglia traded in her badge for the classroom. Tartaglia says, "At the end of our career, if we could look back and just know that we made a difference in a child's life, then it would make it worth it. And to me it was worth changing careers."
Tartaglia and Caldarera both went back to college and enrolled in the Teach Southwest Louisiana program at McNeese. They are able to teach while earning a Master of Arts in Teaching degree and teaching certification at the same time. Tartaglia says, "They make that convenient for you as a teacher because they offer them at night and sometimes on the weekends on Saturdays."
Director Brandy Fisher says Teach Southwest Louisiana got started in 2002 to help fill the area's shortage of quality educators. Fisher says, "With the number of teachers that we have leaving due to retirement, due to illnesses, due to other jobs that alternative certification candidates are necessary for us to keep our low student teacher ratio in the classroom."
Teach Southwest Louisiana participants must have a bachelors degree and at least a 2.5 grade point average. They can earn their masters after taking ten classes and student teaching. About 350 teacher candidates are currently enrolled in Teach Southwest Louisiana.