Passport to Teaching

Sherry Lansing’s May 12 post "Rewired, Not Retired" calls upon America’s schools to better utilize the talents and experiences of knowledgeable and motivated recent retirees -- many of whom would be excellent teachers. As a former teacher who is now working to bring such high quality people into the profession, I agree. America needs 2 million new teachers over the next few years, and retirees are an amazingly talented but untapped group of potential teachers.

Unfortunately, traditional teacher certification methods have made it practically impossible for individuals with the knowledge and motivation to teach to actually become teachers. In many states, people have to take courses they don’t need and spend a lot of money to merely collect the credit hours required. The result is that the very people that Sherry Lansing thinks would be great in the classroom won’t put up with the hoops and hurdles it takes to obtain certification; nor should they.

Now here is my plug. Our organization, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, has developed an innovative way to certify teachers -- one that actually encourages smart and passionate people to enter the teaching profession! We developed a way (using simulations and computer-delivered examinations) to assess the subject-area knowledge and teaching knowledge of people who want to enter the classroom -- without making these individuals pull their hair out over ridiculous and unnecessary requirements. At the same time ensuring that they are ready to take on the challenges of the classroom today. Truly, our Passport to Teaching certification could help realize Ms. Lansing’s goal of “our nation’s most successful people” entering the teaching profession.

Not surprisingly, many groups (some colleges of education, traditional teacher preparation programs and their allies) have posed significant resistance (and in some cases sabotage) to our program -- for whatever reason (politics, money, power, control, etc.). The status quo is not happy that we created an alternate pathway for college educated individuals to enter the profession.

The bottom line: if a person has a college degree, we don’t care how or where they learned about teaching and where or how they gathered the knowledge in their subject area -- just whether they know it!

Yes, we know that just because someone was successful in another career doesn’t mean that he/she will be a great teacher. And yes, we know that just because someone is smart about his or her subject area doesn’t mean that he/she will be able to communicate it to kids. But the likelihood that this successful, smart person will do well in a classroom shouldn’t be ruled out just because they didn’t get a degree in education or take a bunch of education courses, either.

I think that Sherry Lansing is absolutely correct -- the education of America’s children will improve when more of America’s brightest leaders are given the chance to enter the classroom -- either as volunteers, tutors, part-time or fulltime teachers. I wish Ms. Lansing could convince others that her common sense approach would dramatically improve the landscape in education today. A final little plug, check out our program on

Dr. Kathleen Madigan is President of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence.