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Arkansas State University

Get the Skills You Need to Be a Great Public School Teacher With an MAT Degree

Earning an online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree can provide an excellent path toward fulfilling jobs in public schools for second-career teachers. With a quality MAT degree under their belt, educators have the skills to apply effective instructional methods, use modern educational technologies, transition into specialized roles and grow in their careers.

In particular, MAT concentration programs can help professionals obtain the skills — and qualifications — they need to be effective in targeted roles. Arkansas State University (A-State) offers specialized online MAT programs focused on five teaching areas: Business Technology, Elementary Education K-6, Middle Level Education 4-8, Art K-12 and Special Education. While A-State’s MAT – Special Education K-12 online program is offered to degree candidates who plan to teach in all states except California and Georgia, the other four online programs are for working adults who intend to teach in Arkansas.

Focusing on the skills and education successful teachers need, this is the second in a series of three articles exploring how MAT programs can give professionals the skills to succeed in public schools. Follow the links at the bottom of this article to read more about the MAT program and the career and salary benefits of the degree.

The Public School System in the United States

Understanding the U.S. public education and the public school system can shed light on the skills teachers need to be successful within that system. Essentially, public education is free schooling available to every citizen. Granted, public education is generally funded through various forms of taxation.

In the U.S., the public school system comprises localized primary and secondary public schools or charter and magnet schools where alternative schools are available. Laws and policies of the U.S. public school system are governed by a combination of entities — the U.S. Department of Education, state education agencies and local school districts.

Public school teachers need appropriate education, qualifications and licensure, as outlined by state agencies. Teachers must understand and abide by federal, state and local policies and laws that govern everything from school services to educational standards for students. Perhaps most importantly, teachers must have the general and specialized skills to provide excellent learning experiences for students with diverse learning styles, abilities, needs, backgrounds and cultures.

What Shared Skills and Knowledge Do Public School Teachers Need?

Public school teachers must help all students develop the 21st-century skills and knowledge needed to succeed in today’s increasingly complex, globalized and digital world. Hence, teachers must understand how to instruct diverse learners in many areas, regardless of a teacher’s specific role.

For example, all teachers must be competent in language arts and literacy education — including everything from reading and writing instruction to digital literacy development. These are core skills students from all backgrounds rely on. Supporting literacy skill development should be tailored to and integrated across all subjects and disciplines.

Literacy development also helps students build essential skills, including communication and critical thinking. Social and emotional literacy skills are similarly crucial to student development. As such, social and emotional learning (SEL) is another growing focus of modern educational practices across age ranges, student populations and content areas.

In addition, the public education system has long underrepresented minority groups in terms of content and curriculum. At the same time, the U.S. population — especially the younger population — is more diverse than ever. Yet, many schools are still disproportionately divided along racial, ethnic and economic lines.

While recent decades saw progress in developing more inclusive classrooms, curricula and instructional styles, much still needs to be done. To effect change in this environment and help students develop the intercultural skills they need for success, teachers must develop their own cultural competence, practice culturally responsive teaching and strive to create truly inclusive classrooms. This can involve incorporating strategies like differentiated instruction and collaborative learning as well as designing curricula that emphasizes diversity and intercultural skill development.

What Kinds of Specialized Skills and Knowledge Does an MAT Program Help Teachers Develop?

The above are just a few examples of the interdisciplinary knowledge and skills all public school teachers need. A-State’s online MAT programs help educators develop these modern teaching skills through shared course topics like educational technologies, classroom management, culturally responsive teaching and teaching in diverse populations. A-State’s online MAT programs also include an internship component, deepening the knowledge and skills candidates gain through experiential learning.

Yet, public school teachers also need expertise and skills pertaining to their specialization (including the age group, population or discipline they teach). For instance, a special education teacher must understand laws surrounding education for students with exceptionalities, the diverse learning needs of those students and the complex intersectionalities students may experience. Accordingly, A-State’s online MAT – Special Education K-12 coursework explores every aspect of instructing and supporting exceptional learners throughout their public school experience, from initial assessment and IEP design through transition planning.

On the other hand, a K-12 art teacher knows how to enrich students’ lives and learning experiences through arts education. A-State’s online MAT – Art K-12 program covers essential components of K-12 teaching — like professionalism in education, classroom management and technology — while emphasizing applied art education studies.

This highlights the unique attributes of MAT programs. Many education-oriented master’s degree programs are for teachers who would like to pursue education careers outside the classroom. Conversely, A-State’s MAT online programs help candidates gain the general teaching skills and specialized expertise needed to become great teachers who excel in their chosen area of public school education. The MAT degree is for people who want to make a difference in students’ lives, in the classroom, every day.

Be sure to read the first article in this series if you haven’t already, and check back soon for the final series article, “The Career Benefits of Earning an MAT Degree Online.

Learn more about A-State’s online MAT programs.

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