Sue Alexander thought she was retired, but her love of the education profession has recently drawn her back into the field.
Now, instead of managing her own classroom, she’s helping others decide if teaching is a calling they want to pursue, and she couldn’t be more thrilled about her new endeavor.
“There are several very special things that the teaching profession offers its members. One of them is joy,” Alexander said. “The other is the opportunity to leave a legacy. Not too many professions offer this, but teaching does, and I’m excited to be in a position where I can help mentor individuals who will be the next to leave a lasting impact on students.”
Alexander is the recently hired director of Project INVEST for Concordia University Wisconsin. The new program aims to increase the number of skilled teachers – particularly diverse teachers – in Milwaukee-area schools, where quality teachers are in demand.
The program is open to teacher aides – individuals who are already working in the classrooms. Through Project INVEST, Concordia honors the experience these individuals bring to the table by truncating their pathway to teacher licensure.
“Often retention rates are not very strong for teachers stepping into urban education for the first time,” says Concordia’s Dean of Education Dr. Michael Uden. “The exciting thing about Project INVEST is that these individuals are already on the front lines and they’ve made a commitment to the schools that they’re in. They’re just looking for their opportunity to take that next step. This program, augmented with support from Project INVEST partners like the Center for Urban Teaching, makes that possible.”
Project INVEST offers three tracks: one for individuals with bachelor’s degrees seeking initial licenses; one for those with at least 45 college credits seeking bachelor’s degrees and licenses; and one for those with high school diplomas or GEDs seeking associate’s degrees in education. Each track can be completed in as little as two years.
The first cohort of learners will begin their road to licensure this fall. Already, there’s a great deal of interest in the opportunity, says Uden. A May information session held at Concordia’s Miller Park Way Center drew 56 candidates, nearly double what faculty had hoped for.
The Project INVEST initiative was spearheaded by Seton Catholic Schools. Participating schools include HOPE Christian Schools, LUMIN Schools, Milwaukee College Prep, Menomonee Falls School District, Brown Deer School District, Messmer Catholic Schools, Saint Anthony School and Seton Catholic Schools.
As director of the program, Alexander will be on the front lines with the teacher candidates, meeting with them and helping them talk through whether the program is the right fit for them.
She brings to the position decades of experience in education, 13 of them as a teacher and 21 as an administrator. In between her roles in education, she worked as an investment advisor for 10 years.
Looking back on her professional life, Alexander recognizes the moments that were filled with “leaps” or career risks. She credits her faith for playing an instrumental role in guiding her through them.
“Faith may play an important role for perspective educators, as it did for me,” says Alexander.“Thoughtful candidates will examine the question: ‘Do I want to teach and am I willing to seek this goal through Project Invest?’ Entering this program will require a leap of faith, but I know what education holds. Few professions offer the opportunity to experience joy and the chance to leave a legacy. The fun for me will be to help others achieve their goal of making a difference in the lives of children by becoming a teacher.”