CSULB lecturer Kristin Stout during class for a Education Specialist Credential Program at CSULB.
CSULB lecturer Kristin Stout during class for a Education Specialist Credential Program at CSULB. (Stephen Carr / Staff Photographer)

LONG BEACH - Times have been tough for teacher Robyn Ellis, who lost her job last year along with hundreds of other teachers in a mass layoff in the Long Beach Unified School District.

Ellis, who formerly taught fourth grade at Lee Elementary School, has sent her resume to school districts from San Diego to Los Angeles, but so far she's had no luck.

"I've gotten responses from schools saying they received more than 900 qualified applicants for one position. It's really discouraging," said Ellis, a Long Beach resident. "There's just nothing out there."

Thanks to a new a program at Cal State Long Beach, Ellis is now studying to earn an additional teaching credential in special education while she searches for work.

Designed especially for laid-off teachers from the LBUSD, the one-year program was made possible by a $140,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network. The program covers all tuition, fees and textbook costs, which average about $12,770 per student, said Cal State Long Beach spokesman Rick Gloady. The program is only offered for this school year.

Gloady said the purpose of the grant is to prepare laid-off teachers for re-employment in positions for where demand is growing.

Through the accelerated program, teachers can earn a credential to teach special education, which is projected to be a growing field.


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Special education services were provided to nearly 700,000 people through age 22 in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the California Department of Education.

The program kicked off in late August and will conclude in May.

Kristin Stout, a lecturer for the university's education specialist credential program and one of the instructors for the accelerated program, said teachers can add a new credential to their resume and improve their job prospects.

"With that additional special education credential, a teacher is much more marketable," Stout said. "It opens up a whole new door of opportunities."

To recruit teachers for the program, the personnel department at LBUSD mailed a flier and survey to all teachers laid off in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years. Those who returned the survey were invited to an informational meeting, and about 25 attended the initial meeting.

The program started with 16 students but the number dropped to 11 when a handful of students were able to find jobs at the start of the academic year, Gloady said.

Marisa Chavez, who was laid off from her teaching job at Barton Elementary last year, said the program has given her a new love and appreciation for teaching special education. Chavez, who formerly taught general education, said she's been substitute teaching in special education classes while she searches for full-time work.

"I'd like to go into special education after I earn my credential," she said. "I think it will be great new opportunity."

kelly.puente@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2181, twitter.com/kellypuentept