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Updated 5:00 PM March 16, 2007




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Lab to classroom: U-M helps Pfizer workers consider teaching

Related story:
U-M announces $3 million fund, other efforts to help Pfizer workers>

Pfizer executives recently sent e-mails to their Ann Arbor workforce asking if employees might be interested in learning about a U-M program that would turn them into teachers in one year.

About 250 wrote back expressing interest. Nearly 175 attended a lunch presentation by School of Education faculty and students in late February at the Pfizer campus. Many filled out survey forms after the session.

The School of Education Masters of Arts with Certification (MAC) is a special one-year program specifically aimed at helping people trained in one field to change careers to become teachers.

Pfizer plans to cut more than 2,000 jobs from its Ann Arbor research campus in the next two years, and employees are looking at their options.

"The room was full. We had people with education ranging from B.S. degrees to PhDs,'' says Edward Silver, associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Education and the William A. Brownell Collegiate Professor of Education.

"Interest was strong and serious. About 30 or 40 folks stayed around after the presentation to talk with us individually.''

While U-M officials thought most Pfizer employees might be interested in enrolling in 2008, many expressed a desire to start as early as June 2007. The majority sought training to become secondary school teachers, but there also were some who were interested in elementary education.

The one-year program offered by MAC helps non-education majors get their teacher certification, a master's degree and a new career teaching. Traditional programs can take two or more years to receive the same credentials. The intensive summer-to-summer MAC approach accelerates the process by coordinating coursework with extensive field experience in school settings.

There currently are about 100 students enrolled in the secondary and elementary MAC programs, but Silver says the school could accommodate a number of Pfizer workers if there is a demand by adding additional sections. The school also is being flexible with its enrollment deadlines, and it is looking for ways to meet the needs of students who wish to seek a route other than MAC to obtain a teaching credential.

David Canter, senior vice president of Pfizer Global Research & Development, and site director of the company's Michigan laboratories, knew about the program first-hand. His wife, Valerie, is an attorney already enrolled in the program. And Pfizer scientist Anthony Thomas already had left the company to enroll last year in the June-to-June program.

Graduates of the MAC program are highly sought after, and roughly 90 percent have found new teaching jobs quickly, Silver says. There is a particularly high demand for teachers of mathematics, science and foreign languages, as the state raises its high school graduation requirements, calling for students to take more courses in these areas, he says.

Graduates get extensive hands-on experience working with area school districts as they earn their degrees and are qualified to teach in any Michigan school district.

The School of Education set up a special Web site for the Pfizer workers at,, and it received 80 hits within the first 24 hours.

Pfizer staff members also contacted the education school at Eastern Michigan University for similar information about its offerings.

For more on the U-M program, visit

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