Published: Dec 01, 2010 1:36 AM EST
Updated: Nov 30, 2010 10:36 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla - Interested in becoming a middle school teacher? The State of Florida predicts it will need to hire more than 3,000 middle school teachers in the next several years, yet until now there was no public or private school in Southwest Florida to educate Middle School Math, Science or Language Arts teachers.

The School of Education at Edison State College has launched three new baccalaureate degree programs to address the three of the state’s critical teacher shortage areas. The programs will prepare graduates to secure teaching positions in 5-9 grade levels in the applicable program discipline.

“We have an opportunity to provide more students access to in-demand careers in education,” explained Dr. Erin Harrel, Dean of the School of Education at Edison State College. “It is time for students in Southwest Florida to have an opportunity to become a middle school teacher without travelling far from home.”

The occupation of middle grades education ranks 36th out of the 100 fastest growing occupations in Florida. The Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation finds that by the 2012-2013 academic year there will be a need for an additional 3,397 middle grades math, science and language arts teachers in Florida. These figures present a significant increase in the number of new middle grades teachers needed in the state.

Ernie Branson is seizing the opportunity. After years of working in retail management and in transportation, Branson realized that Edison State would afford him the opportunity to make a fulfilling career change. He will be part of the Middle School Language Arts program at Edison State.

“I’ve thought about teachers who had a positive influence in my life,” explained Branson. “I had a hard time in 7th and 8th grade. I credit many of those teachers with my coming out of that time on the right side. I hope to have that same positive influence on other young people.”

Branson, whose long-term plans include both teaching and pursuing a Master’s degree, chose Edison State for several reasons: “The school has an excellent reputation- I’ve spoken with friends who had great experiences,” enthused Branson. “The student body isn’t just typical demographic.  I’m not the only person who’s been out in the working world and back to get a degree.  That has a lot to do with why I chose Edison State and why I am staying for my bachelor’s.  I’m so happy I can stay now for my entire undergraduate degree!”

Edison State College is enrolling students for the Spring 2011 semester now through January 6th.  To learn more about the B.S. in Middle Grades Language Arts Education with ESOL endorsement, B.S. in Middle Grades Mathematics Education, or B.S. in Middle Grades Science Education, visit the website:  http://www.edison.edu/academics/.