“I teach one of the first classes students have in TCH and some of the last (clinicals and student teaching),” said Linda Ruhe Marsh, a non-tenure track professor (NTT) in the School of Teaching and Learning (TCH) with 28 years of experience in education. “There is nothing more gratifying than supporting these students and truly seeing the growth of an educator.”

With over 80 NTTs in TCH alone, it is important to recognize the key role that these colleagues play in preparing teachers. NTTs have long been a fixture within the College of Education, and many of them are involved in instruction of courses as well as serving as supervisors of pre-student teaching candidates during their clinical coursework.

NTTs come to the college with a wealth of PK-12 teaching and administrative experience at an average of 21 years each, and all have post-graduate degrees. Despite this wealth of experience, they may not have taught at the university level before and may need additional support to ensure their success. A desire to discover how to best support NTTs led to conversations during TCH faculty meetings.

These initial conversations grew deeper, which led to a group of TCH administrators and tenure line faculty getting together to develop solutions and put the idea of developing a series of trainings into motion. Together, they discussed the general structure of the trainings and what topics would be the most important to cover. Specific topics seemed to keep popping up, which then became the framework of the original series offerings that have been led by tenure line faculty from TCH.

It was decided that only one course would be offered each semester, to ensure that attendees could delve deeply into one particular topic throughout the course of the semester. The series of courses kicked off in fall 2019, with the first topic covering the challenges of transitioning PK-12 teaching practices to college courses and examining the similarities and differences. The spring 2020 course dealt with integrating research into course instruction. The 2020-21 school year started off with a focus on helping teacher candidates develop skills and comprehension of the Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework that PK-12 schools utilize in Illinois. During this semester, attendees have learned how to be more critically reflective about their own identities, and how they may impact the teaching and learning experience from an equity and inclusion perspective.

While not a requirement of employment, NTTs do receive a stipend to help stress the importance of these courses in benefiting their own professional development and, so far, the program has been well received by attendees.

“It’s easy to feel somewhat disconnected at times as an NTT, but I have really enjoyed meeting other NTTs and forming opportunities for networking, support, and friendship through these trainings,” said Ruhe Marsh. “All of the sessions I have attended have provided me with strategies to put into practice right away, which I really appreciate.”

For more information on these professional development opportunities, contact Dr. Erin Mikulec, professor and interim associate director in the School of Teaching and Learning. A special thanks goes out to those who were so instrumental in creation of these supports for NTTs: Jill Donnel, assistant director and undergraduate program coordinator; Dr. Deborah MacPhee, associate professor and director of the Mary and Jean Borg Center for Reading and Literacy; and Dr. Sherry Sanden, associate professor.