Returning Peace Corps volunteers are being recruited to work in Dade County, Fla., classrooms through an innovative new project involving the school system, the Peace Corps, the local teachers' union, and a nearby university.
Under a "memorandum of understanding" hammered out last month, the school system will recruit up to 25 former Peace Corps volunteers a year as new teachers.
Besides having taught school in their assignments overseas, the new teachers must have an academic background in one of four areas where the school system is experiencing teacher shortages: science, mathematics, special education, and English.
They are also required to enroll, at a reduced tuition rate, in a new graduate-level teacher-preparation program specifically designed for them at Florida International University. As part of that program, the teachers can earn academic credit for undertaking Peace Corps-style projects in the schools or communities where they work.
"We know Peace Corps people work well in schools, particularly schools in low-income areas," said Billy F. Birnie, the instructional recruiting officer for the school system. "They've already worked with many cultures, and they've got that sense of commitment--that missionary-type zeal."
A Peace Corps official last week said the Dade County agreement is the third of its kind for the federal agency. Similar projects are already under way in New York City and Los Angeles. The agency is also eyeing seven other regions around the country as possible sites for such ventures.
Teachers and other school employees in Dallas will be able to further their education and sharpen their job skills through a new "mini-university" unveiled by city school officials last month.
Known as the "Academy for Staff Development," the program may be the most ambitious of its kind in any urban school district in the country, according to Dallas school officials.
Launched at an initial cost of $2 million, the academy will offer evening, after-school, and summer courses, free of charge, to the school system's 15,000 teachers, administrators, and classified employees.
Some of the academy offerings this spring and summer include courses in "survival" Spanish, classroom discipline, teaching Huckleberry Finn to high-school students, and cooperative learning.
"In the past, most training programs were mandated," said Pamela Spruiell, the interim assistant superintendent overseeing the program. ''We're trying to turn around that thinking so that people choose to go to the academy because they want to learn a skill."--dv