Back to school for teachers |

Back to school for teachers

Matt TerrellVail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyMath teacher Cliff Zehring answers questions from his dual-enrollment trigonometry students Tuesday at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum.

EAGLE COUNTY Cliff Zehring remembers sitting in a packed auditorium in college waiting to have his mind blown by the world of high level math.And which world-renown scholar would step up to enlighten these 500 freshmen? A lowly, inexperienced grad student.Zehring, a high school math teacher with more than 20 years experience under his belt, wonders how those green grad students are technically more qualified than he is to teach a college math course.

He is one of many teachers dealing with an unintended consequence of No Child Left Behind, which in its quest to put top teachers in every classroom, is threatening dual-enrollment courses at Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain high schools.These teachers, while experienced and effective, dont have enough graduate college hours to be qualified under No Child Left Behind to teach dual-enrollment courses, which allow students to receive credit at Colorado Mountain College while taking rigorous classes within high school walls, Eagle Valley Principal Mark Strakbein said.When you have an expert in the field, someone whos had successful evaluations and is already meeting the standards of the college (Colorado Mountain College), its difficult to see how theyre not qualified, Strakbein said.

Some whove been teaching these-dual enrollment classes for years, are now scrambling to find those extra grad credits, which can be time consuming and difficult.Zehring, for instance, teaches dual-enrollment algebra, trigonometry and calculus. He has a masters degree in administration, but only a bachelors in math. So, he has to bulk up his college hours, a task he sees as redundant.My feeling is I know the material so well now, Id do a much better job than some of those grad students at the universities, Zehring said. I feel qualified.Zehring said he might gain some more in-depth knowledge about math, but it probably wont change how he teaches his classes.Philip Qualman, an assistant principal at Battle Mountain High School, said its frustrating to see teachers go back to school for a class theyve taught 15 years. At a school district meeting with elected legislators, Qualman asked Rep. Mark Udall to consider this effect of No Child Left Behind before voting to approve its renewal.I appreciate the intent of the law I dont want anyone just coming off the street to teach, but when we have the potential to lose a program when we know theres a quality teacher, it seems the law is flawed, Qualman said. I dont think we need to throw it out, but it needs to be amended.

No Child Left Behind allows unqualified teachers to continue instructing dual-enrollment courses if they show progress in obtaining the required credits. Zehring is working out a plan to take online courses and classes during the summer to meet the needs. He should be able to keep teaching his dual-enrollment classes next year, Strakbein said.Finding those courses is difficult though, especially since grad courses arent offered at Colorado Mountain College. Qualman said many colleges dont like offering classes a la carte, or without a degree plan. The teachers arent actually seeking new degrees, just about 18 hours of credit.The accessibility is making it difficult finding classes and getting to them is difficult, Strakbein said.Zehring said the school district does reimburse teachers for these extra credits, which is a much needed incentive.If it turns out that a teacher cant teach a dual-enrollment course anymore, it would be tough to find a replacement, Strakbein said.Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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