ASPIRE to Teach, CU Denver’s alternative teacher licensure program, is a highly personalized and low-cost option for individuals living in Colorado who already have a bachelor’s degree and have decided to pursue a teaching career. The program has been in existence for more than six years, licensing more than 1,000 teachers across Colorado. The yearlong preparation is provided on-the-job while candidates earn a paycheck as a teacher in a school.
For the 2019 calendar year, CU Denver has enrolled 347 teachers in the program, a 77% increase since fall 2017, according to Suzanne Arnold, PhD, director of ASPIRE to Teach at CU Denver. A significant portion of the enrollment increase can be attributed to the special education program track under the leadership of Jennifer Fox, MA, assistant director of ASPIRE. The program’s reach spans 44 school districts and 195 schools across Colorado. Denver Public Schools is currently the school district with the most teachers enrolled in the program, followed by Douglas County Schools, STRIVE Prep charter network, Harrison School District and Jefferson County Schools.
A way to get great teachers into the classroom
ASPIRE to Teach uses technology in innovative ways to reach prospective teachers in rural communities. The high-tech, high-touch program matches each candidate with an alternative licensure instructor, or “ALI,” who mentors and provides one-on-one support and personalized video coaching, matching program curriculum with candidates’ needs to enhance their development and growth. Types of schools impacted include public, private, charter, innovation, rural, facility and early childhood centers.
“Our Colorado communities, schools and students deserve the highest-quality teachers,” said Jennifer Kral, educator preparation principal consultant for the Colorado Department of Education. “We appreciate the strong partnership we have with ASPIRE to Teach and their strong focus on finding and training teachers for our rural schools. The program’s rolling admissions option is an attribute that especially attracts candidates. According to our records, this program has the highest number of alternative licensure candidates in the state.”
ASPIRE to Teach is attracting diverse high achievers, many of whom are career changers and already have advanced degrees. Students in our program are more likely to be male and older than students in a traditional teacher education program in Colorado. The program saw a 29% increase in veteran and military enrollments in the past year. The oldest student started at age 68.
“All of my experiences from the beginning to the end of the ASPIRE program were great,” said Jessica Bell, ASPIRE to Teach alumna. “I had so much to live for after I started teaching. Furthermore, I had even more to live for after I started ASPIRE to Teach. I feel much more equipped for my career. ASPIRE was the million cherries on top for me. I don’t know where my main faculty member, Dane, finds the time, but he has offered tremendous support to our cohort, from the beginning of the program until now. ASPIRE is everything they said it would be … everything! I couldn’t be happier with my choice.”
ASPIRE to Teach endorses teachers in all qualifying content areas, including high-need fields like math, science and special education. Last spring, ASPIRE leveraged content experts to design specific methodology curriculum for visual arts, physical education, music and drama due to increased demand for those subjects. “These experts are now serving as ALIs, enhancing our program’s ability to coach and develop our candidates in those content areas,” said Arnold. “Our strong reputation and high customer service are feeding our program growth. I’m proud of the innovation and dedication of our faculty, program managers and students for making this the top alternative licensure program in the state.”