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School of Education Unveils New Name for Alternative Teacher Certification Pathway: STL Teaching Fellows @ SLU

by Karissa Sywulka


On June 6, 2022, Saint Louis University’s School of Education unveiled the name of their newest alternative pathway in the teacher-certification program: The STL Teaching Fellows @ SLU.

Unveiling new STL Teaching Fellows logo
Left to Right: Karen Tichy, Ed.D.; Ryan Wilson; Kelly Ivy; Gary Ritter, Ph.D., unveiling the new program name.

In the midst of a teacher shortage, alternative routes to teacher certification are needed more than ever. Alternative routes to teacher certification open the door to a teaching career for college graduates without an education degree or teaching certification. Participants work full-time as teachers through a provisional teaching certificate while taking teacher-education courses to become fully certified. SLU’s Master of Arts in Teaching, (M.A.T.) program is a year-round two-year program that begins in June each year.


SLU M.A.T. Program

The STL Teaching Fellows @ SLU is one of three alternative pathways to certification at Saint Louis University, all led by M.A.T. Program Director Karen Tichy, Ed.D. The Billiken Teacher Corps (BTC) was launched in 2015 as a path for staffing under-resourced Catholic schools in the St. Louis area with faith-driven college graduates. BTC participants earn an M.A.T. while working full-time and earning teaching certification.

The newest pathway began as a pilot program in fall 2020. After a successful start, the School of Education decided on a permanent name–The STL Teaching Fellows @ SLU. The STL Teaching Fellows teach in local public schools and charter public schools while taking teacher-certification courses and earning an M.A.T. At SLU’s spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 21, 2022, nine members of the first cohort of STL Teaching Fellows graduated with M.A.T. degrees.

A New Chapter

Induction Ceremony at the June 6, 2022 "Welcome to Your Next Chapter" Event
Induction Ceremony at the June 6, 2022 "Welcome to Your Next Chapter" Event

On June 6, 2022, the third cohort was inducted into the program during a banquet at Il Monastero. The banquet was called “Welcome To Your Next Chapter” in celebration of the new chapter in the lives of the 13 new Teaching Fellows and celebrating the pathway’s new name. Family members and district leaders attended, and the keynote speaker was Sheldon McAfee, Ed.D., a new addition to the SLU M.A.T. instructional team.

Filling Urgent Needs in Local Public Schools

When a candidate is accepted as an STL Teaching Fellow, they are referred to principals in partner schools, with special attention to filling urgent needs in under-resourced neighborhoods. The newest cohort of STL Teaching Fellows will work in districts including St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS), Ferguson-Florissant School District, Riverview Gardens School District, Confluence Academies and Ritenour School District.

St. Louis Public Schools has placed nearly 25 Teaching Fellows in its schools since its inception. SLPS also supports selected Teaching Fellows with tuition assistance.

Ryan Wilson, the School of Education’s program coordinator for community projects, celebrated the partnership with local schools.

“We appreciate building a bridge with our community school districts, and this is only the beginning,” he said.

Bringing Diversity Into the Teacher Workforce

The 2022 STL Teaching Fellows cohort consists of 13 college graduates and, like the previous two cohorts, the newest participants bring a wide variety of expertise and experience. Some cohort members earned degrees directly related to their content area, such as English and history, while others have bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering, classics, aerospace engineering, business administration and psychology. The third cohort brings work experience from sectors such as finance and social services.

Members of the third cohort range from recent college graduates to parents of recent college graduates. Patricia House recently moved to St. Louis to be closer to her adult sons and shared how important this change is to her.

For the first time I’m beginning a career, not just a job.”

Patricia House, STL Teaching Fellows Cohort 3

House will teach math at Westview Middle School in Riverview Gardens.

STL Teaching Fellows represent a broad range of racial and ethnic identities. While Black teachers represent just 7% of U.S. teachers, more than 40% of the three cohorts of STL Teaching Fellows @ SLU identify as Black.

“Research has shown for some time the importance for children and youth to have a proportion of teachers who share their same race throughout their educational careers,” Tichy said. “I am grateful for the diversity reflected in our M.A.T. pathways”.

Locals Giving Back

In the newest cohort, eight of the fellows come from hometowns within the St. Louis metropolitan area. School of Education Dean Gary Ritter, Ph.D., feels the local connection is important to retaining quality teachers in St. Louis.

“The evidence is clear that teachers tend to build careers in the communities where they were raised,” he said. “Most of our STL Teaching Fellows are committed to our community schools and will be working in St. Louis schools for many years to come.”

M.A.T. faculty member Kelly Ivy agrees, reflecting that “teaching in the city you grew up in is a direct way to pay it forward and give back to your community.”

Dara Jones, a Cohort 1 Teaching Fellow, teaches middle school math at Long International Middle School in SLPS.

“I grew up close to SLU, literally down the street and around the corner,” Jones said. “Growing up in the inner city, you see some things. I am excited I get to give back to my community and make a positive difference.”

Cohort 3 Teaching Fellow Jerri Peal is also motivated by her experiences living in St. Louis. Peal will teach math at Compton-Drew ILC Middle School in SLPS.

“From growing up in North Saint Louis, I know what it feels like to be left behind,” Peal said. “I witnessed that same feeling watching the pandemic play out in a tale of two cities, one North and one South. I decided I wanted to make a real difference for my community. I might not be able to be the person marching in the streets, but I can be the person in the classroom helping to feed my students’ minds.”

Looking Ahead

Recruitment of the 2023 cohort of STL Teaching Fellows @ SLU is already under way. Those interested in becoming an STL Teaching Fellow may contact Ryan Wilson at or 314-977-3292.