As elementary and secondary schools brace for teaching shortages, Howard Community College is hoping to steer people toward the career with the semester-long equivalent of job-shadowing.
EDUC 270 - a course for those who might not have taken education classes before but want to try on the job for size - puts college students in Howard County public school classrooms for six hours a week to observe and learn.
It's one of about two dozen new classes at HCC for fall semester, which begins Aug. 26.
"What we really want is to give college students and career-changers real-life experience with younger and older children," said Fran Kroll,the college's coordinator of teacher education and early childhood development. "They get to try it out and see if it's for them."
The class has no prerequisites. Students can specify what age group and subject they prefer to observe.
Years ago, education majors didn't get this "field" experience until graduation loomed. But now, experts say, the earlier, the better.
"The research literature has proven that students who have early field experiences are more successful teachers," Kroll said.
Maryland schools are facing teacher shortages in part because too few students are majoring in education, said Barbara Matthews, a human resources specialist with Howard County public schools. Adding to the problem are graduates with education degrees who decide not to teach, a growing kindergarten to grade 12 population and many instructors ready to retire, she said.
Also in the fall semester, HCC is starting a new associate degree program in Internet technologies, a nod to the pervasive presence of the World Wide Web.
"The Internet's kind of taken over the world," said Marie Westhaver, HCC's Web master. "We want to give students practical skills as well as an overview of what the Internet can do."
Administrators also are recognizing that the computer science major isn't always the right fit for people interested in the Web.
"Not everybody who wants to be in computers wants to be a programmer," Westhaver said.
HCC officials will regularly introduce new elective courses for the program because the field changes so quickly, she said.
"It's almost a liquid degree," she said.
Medical imaging courses
Another degree program beginning in the fall is radiologictechnology, for students interested in a career in medical imaging - that is, operating machines that see into the human body.
HCC doesn't have a radiologic laboratory, but Anne Arundel Community College does. Officials worked out an agreement that allows Howard County students to take lab courses in Arnold but pay in-county fees.
Typically, students pay extra to attend classes at a community college outside their county.
Courses for radiologic technology majors that don't require a lab will be offered in Howard County.
HCC spokesman Randy Bengfortsaid the partnership will expand career options for Howard County residents and save the college money.
"It would be expensive to duplicate the program," he said.