UM introduces TAP program to combat the national teacher shortage

Professor Deroo teaches the students in his TAP class on Thursday, Feb. 9 at the University of Miami Photo credit: Cecelia Runner

More than 200 classrooms in Miami Dade County Public Schools began the 2022-23 academic school year without an assigned teacher. The University of Miami, in partnership with Achieve Miami and Teach for America, developed the Teacher Accelerator Program to combat the teacher shortage by guaranteeing undergraduate seniors a teaching position in Miami Dade Public Schools after a one semester course and summer internship.

“If you are living in this country, any child, every child should have access to a quality education, no matter their background, no matter their zip code.” Leslie Miller-Saiontz, founder and president of Achieve Miami and the TAP program, said.

Students traditionally become teachers after earning a four-year degree in education, passing multiple certification exams and completing student teaching hour requirements. TAP hopes to shift this model. Students from all backgrounds and majors will study their area of interest, and through TAP, develop the skills and knowledge necessary to then teach.

“I’m a Teach for America alum, so I went through the six weeks of training and was handed the keys to my classroom. I ended up staying for seven years and fell in love with it,” Jasmine Calin-Micek, director of programming for TAP, said. “But I also acknowledged that a little bit more training would have been helpful, and that’s where we have expanded the training for this alternative certification.”

From left to right, Dr. Laura Kohn-Wood, Leslie Miller Saiontz and Jasmine Calin-Micek pose in front of the U.
From left to right, Dr. Laura Kohn-Wood, Leslie Miller Saiontz and Jasmine Calin-Micek pose in front of the U. Photo credit: Jamie Honowitz

Senior undergraduates in their spring semester participating in TAP will complete a one-semester course at UM (TAL 590) focused on teaching the fundamentals of skills that are vital in K-12 classrooms. The course is followed by a paid summer internship with Teach for America or Achieve Miami. At the end of the program, students will receive professional teaching certification and a full-time employment contract with Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

“We are saying come take this class. There’s a four step method with support along the way,” Miller-Saiontz said. “We will be there to celebrate you, to mentor you, and provide anything else you need.”

Dr. Matthew Deroo, the assistant professor of digital literacies for multilingual students in the University of Miami Department of Teaching and Learning developed the course curriculum for TAL 590 along with Dr. Jennifer Krawec, the assistant professor of practice in the Department of Teaching and Learning.

The curriculum focuses on three areas of study: the sociocultural history of schooling, how to build relationships with students and how to adapt and modify curriculums.

“The second module of study takes a non-traditional stance around the notion of resistance.” Deroo said. “We often see student resistance as a negative thing, but teachers and relationships are really important for learning. If students don’t feel like they have a sense of belonging, that might be a reason that they resist schooling.”

TAP students must pass state certification exams to move forward into classroom teaching and be placed into a classroom in the fall.

The internship portion is a project based learning experience. Alongside veteran teachers, students will observe classrooms in the morning and then engage in professional development in the afternoon.

“Students will be led by an instructional coach that will say: this is how you have small conversations with kids. This is how you lead group discussions with students. This is how you make sure that you are being culturally responsive in your classroom.” Calin-Micek said.

Participants will spend time at Teach for America summer sites where they are guided by the support of a veteran teacher and an instructional coach selected by TAP to practice skills before getting in front of kids. Students will also be taught life skills to aid their transition from being a student in the college environment to being a teacher living in Miami.

“You’re not born a teacher. You can be taught to be a teacher and that’s what we’re committed to at TAP.” said Calin-Micek. “To anyone who’s thinking: I don’t know if I have the patience or I don’t have this or that, I have a story to say you’re likely not, that’s probably not true, and you’d probably be a great teacher.”

Piloted in spring 2023, TAP is the first initiative of its kind in Florida. Achieve Miami is in preliminary discussions with other universities interested in expanding the program nationally.

In spring of 2024, TAL 590 will be available for enrollment to undergraduate seniors with a major that the State of Florida recognizes for teaching. If you are considering the program, contact Jasmine Calin-Micek at for more information.