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Alternative Education Graduate Certification Approved

By Lacy Lukaszewicz
University Communications

APRIL 20, 2009 | The University of W isconsin-River Falls has recently approved a new online graduate certificate in alternative education.

Dave Berg, the first graduate of the program, said he is using his new degree to the full extent at Ellsworth High School as an alternative education instructor. He started the graduate certification in the summer 2007 and completed it in the spring 2008.  

“I was originally interested in the certification because the programs at Ellsworth High School were rapidly growing,” he said. “I felt that the alternative education certification would allow me more flexibility. The certification has been integral to the growth of programs within the school.”

The goal of the certificate is for educators to gain a solid foundation in the history, philosophy, educational psychology, curriculum, instruction and management involved in the rapidly growing area of alternative education.

Alternative education is best suited for students who do not flourish in the traditional school environment, say organizers. “It includes all students whose skills are not maximized in the mainstream setting and it is very inclusive,” said Carole Mottaz, an adjunct professor at UWRF and an instructor at the Renaissance Academy in River Falls, which is a charter alternative school. “The goal of alternative education is to give every student access to the core values and goals of a quality school district.”

According to Berg, the certification has been very beneficial to his professional career. “I learned a great deal about the types of students who are drawn to alternative education and why they are drawn. I also learned about different alternative education programs that are in existence and the entire philosophy of alternative education. Carol Mottaz was extremely knowledgeable and her expertise was of great value.”

The online, flexible course sequence was very convenient for Berg, who had been out of the school setting for some time and had some catching up to do. “I came back to education after being in business for 25 years,” he said. “Going back to school was hard and then to do things online was a rude awakening. But when I got the jist of how everything worked, I found it to be great. The ability to research is there and the ability to provide information back and forth is top-notch. It was wonderful and extremely convenient.”

Licensed Wisconsin educators seeking a WI 952 license should enroll along with any educator wishing to learn more about teaching in an alternative education setting.   Program organizers say the program is useful for Minnesota educators, too, because the state does not have a certification process for alternative education settings. Current alternative educators who would like to continue their professional development are also encouraged to enroll.

Courses begin in spring, summer and fall. For more information contact Mary Manke, professor and associate dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, at 715-425-3774 or


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