Secondary Teacher Program (STP) FAQs

1. I have been a substitute teacher for several years but never a full-time teacher. Am I still eligible?

Yes. In order to be eligible to apply for VISTA's Secondary Teacher Program, you must be in your first or second year of full-time teaching.

2. I have taught other subjects (or grade levels) for several years but this is my first year teaching secondary science. Am I still eligible?

No. The program is only open to teachers who have a total of one year or less of full-time teaching at the time of application regardless of subject, grade level, or type of school (e.g., public or private).

3. I am a special education teacher who collaborates with a regular education science teacher. Am I eligible?

Applicants' teaching assignments must include primary responsibility for 6th - 12th grade science, including being the teacher of record for science grades and SOLs. If you teach self-contained science classes or co-teach with a science teacher and students’ science grades and SOL scores are linked to your name you are eligible to apply.

4. I teach science at an alternative school. Am I eligible?

It depends. If you meet all the other criteria and students stay at your school for the entire school year, then you are most likely eligible. If students are only at your school for a period of time, then you are most likely not eligible. Please contact us for more information.

5. Could you please give me more details about the courses that are part of the program? For example, what are the time requirements and assignments?

The courses are designed to help beginning secondary science teachers become more effective at implementing hands-on, inquiry-based science instruction that explicitly incorporates the nature of science, technology, and differentiation. All assignments are designed to be applicable to your regular teaching responsibilities. In the first course, assignments focus on classroom management, instructional planning, and analyzing student work. In the second course, assignments focus on incorporating problem-based learning, technology, and differentiation in order to improve science instruction for all students. Each course is a three-credit graduate level course, therefore, the time commitment is about 5 hours of work per week, including class.

6. Can I take the entire course via distance learning?

Not at this time. The courses are designed to have a mix of in-person and on-line sessions. For the first year course, about two-thirds of the sessions are on campus, all of which are either in the summer or on Saturdays. For the second year course, about one-third of the sessions are on-campus. For on campus sessions, VISTA pays travel, meals, and lodging for participants who are more than 25 miles from their assigned campus.

7. Can I count the courses toward my initial licensure?

Together, the courses in VISTA's Secondary Teacher Program are designed to meet the Virginia Department of Education's requirements for coursework in "Classroom and Behavior Management” and “Curriculum and Instructional Procedures." If you have not already completed coursework for those requirements, VISTA’s courses should count toward initial licensure. Please check with your school division's licensure specialist for final approval.

8. Can I count the courses toward recertification?

You will receive graduate-level credit from the respective university (i.e., George Mason University, The College of William and Mary, or Virginia Commonwealth University) upon successful completion of each course. Therefore, the course should count for recertification under Option 1: College Credit. Please check with your school division's licensure specialist for final approval.

9. When is the stipend paid?

For teachers in the treatment group, the stipend is paid in installments throughout your participation in the program. Teachers randomized into the control group are paid their stipend each summer following each year of participation in the two year program, once all data collection activities are completed.

10. Does VISTA pay for a substitute teacher while I'm at the VAST conference?

No. Principals indicate that they will cover the cost of a substitute when they fill out the support form. Please be aware, however, that each school handles this absence differently, and you may need to use a personal leave day.

11. If I am in the treatment group, what are my responsibilities other than the courses?

Other responsibilities for treatment group teachers include:

  1. completing all data collection activities including surveys, interviews, and videotaped classroom observations throughout the school year,
  2. maintaining contact and completing all required visits with your instructional coach, and
  3. attending the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) conference in the fall.

12. If I am in the control group, what are my responsibilities?

Control group teachers must complete all data collection activities including surveys, interviews, and videotaped classroom observations throughout each school year of the program.

13. When will I know if I have been assigned to the treatment or control group?

Depending on when they applied, eligible secondary teacher applicants will be notified of their status in early-May, mid-July, or early-September. Because the graduate courses begin in August (with make-up sessions in September for late hires), it is in your best interest to apply early in order to be able to confirm your fall schedule.