A native of northern China, Donghong Sun graduated with a BS in Chemistry from the University of Beijing in 1992 and moved to the United States to pursue her PhD in Chemistry at Columbia University. After graduating from Columbia, Sun conducted postdoctoral work a Rutgers University and landed a position working on pesticide formulation for Rohm and Haas. She decided to leave industry after her first child was born. Following a discussion about Rider University’s Graduate-Level Teacher Certification Program (GLTP) with the mother of one of her daughter’s classmates, Sun decided to pursue a teaching career.

Currently in her second year as a chemistry teacher at Montgomery High School in Skillman, Sun is one of hundreds of second-career seekers who have participated in the Rider University’s GLTP. Graduates who have completed all the requirements of an approved program in teacher education are eligible to receive a New Jersey Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing, which authorizes the individual to seek and accept offers of employment in New Jersey schools. After a year of mentorship on the job in a New Jersey school, the certificate becomes valid for the lifetime of its holder.

“The Rider program came so highly recommended and it opened up a whole new way of thinking about teaching for me,” recalls Sun. “I like the fact that the program puts the student at the center of active learning versus sitting passively taking notes which was the norm when I was a student,” Sun added.

“There is certainly a shortage in science teachers and we are trying to bridge the gap,” stated Sandra Alberti, Director of the Office of Math and Science Education in New Jersey, “We recognize the need for our students to have a strong foundation in life sciences in order to contribute to the future well being of the economy. That’s why we are promoting best practices in math and science education and have already mandated that New Jersey students must now take biology as one of the core sciences courses in high school.”

The primary goal of the Office of Math and Science Education is to strengthen skills of all students, increase the number of math and science graduates from colleges and universities and develop initiatives that will increase the number of certified math and science teachers. “Ultimately, our goal is to develop a world class workforce by assisting students and job seekers in obtaining the skills and education that are needed in a competitive economy,” added Alberti. Rider University’s GLTP program is just one of the programs that encourage individuals to pursue teaching careers in math and science. Launched in 2003, the New Pathway to Teaching in New Jersey (NPTNJ) also offers a statewide alternate route teacher preparation program for candidates who already possess a bachelor’s degree and certificate of eligibility. Candidates take NPTNJ coursework at local NJ Community Colleges using a curriculum created jointly by New Jersey City University and the Community Colleges. NPTNJ includes a pre-service component that incorporates classroom management techniques, lesson planning, and on-site classroom observations. Once individuals receive a teaching position, they take coursework essential for the development of excellent teachers.

“Of the nearly 400 individuals who have participated in the 2007-2008 NPTNJ program, approximately 28% represented math and science teachers,” stated Darlene Yoseloff, Director of School Relations, Middlesex County College.

Liberty Science Center is also focused on strengthening the quality of science teachers. Through its Gateway program, Liberty Science Center offers a unique approved Regional Training Center for alternate route science teachers. Alternate route science teachers who have their first school contract in the state are eligible to participate in the training. The majority of the training is completed during an intensive 20-day summer program before they enter their first teaching assignment. Participants observe and teach lessons in a local summer school program and receive onsite coaching visits once they are actually working in their school.

Mary Ellen Clark is Executive Director of the Central New Jersey WIRED Bio-1 initiative. Bio-1 focuses on retaining and expanding high quality jobs in the biosciences sector, as well as exciting young people about the biosciences and laying smooth education and career pathways to increasing bioscience workforce development through training and transformational graduate programs.


  1. Chemist says:

    Yes, who can not have seen the repetitive adds for NJ teachers on Craigslist?If it were possible to
    (a) have teaching obligations that cover 3 days/week,
    (b) the State of New Jersey would give me the space, time and modest budget for a small independent research program for 2 days each week and
    (c) a salary for 12 months instead of 9, then I would consider becoming a teacher, too.

    That would partial compensation for teaching in either Camden, Newark or Trenton! I would even buy my own bullet-proof vest!

  2. They don't get it... says:

    Science teachers, math teachers…

    How about pay them at market price? Compete with other industries. Pick the best. Stop crying that you can’t get what you want because you don’t pay enough.

  3. Chemist says:

    On the subject of pay, I noticed the following text from the propaganda spiel:

    >she decided to leave industry after her first child was born. Following a discussion about Rider
    >University’s Graduate-Level Teacher Certification Program (GLTP) with the mother of one of her
    >daughter’s classmates, Sun decided to pursue a teaching career.

    In other words, the PhD teacher in question was assumedly married. If her husband is employed, then that means that her income from teaching did not have to suffice to support herself and her child. So much for a decent salary.

  4. Disappointed says:

    I tried this “alternate route” after being laid-off for over a year. Even with having over 12 years experience in the R&D industry, my B.S. gpa of 2.3 was not the required 2.5 that the state demands, and I was not eligible to become a teacher (despite all the reccommendations I was getting that I would be a great teacher).
    To have to start all over again is just not something that is feasible for me right now.
    Pay cut to me would not be the issue. If you are going into teaching for the money, you are missing what the real payback is.
    To inspire someone to look at the world and take it to the next level, to unock the belief they have that Math and Science are something that isn’t for everyone, to watch when they have that “ah-ha” moment. That is priceless.

  5. Chemist says:

    Hey, “Disappointed”, please get your head out of the clouds – it seldom works like that. I know a teacher who seriously struggles to make ends meet over the summer (e.g. driving a car with bad brakes that she can not afford to let be repaired until Fall). Another one I noticed can not afford his own apartment, so he rents as a lodger. There is a basic level of compensation that has to be achieved.

    I can teach very well, but there is more to that in being a chemist. Or do you look forward to working 60 hours a week, jumping through the hoops of “no child left behind” or possibly being forced to teach “creation science”. Do you relish being de-fault disqualified as a chemist? It’s a one-way road.

  6. Dissappointed says:

    Thanks Chemist, but there are always extras the teachers are able to do.
    Is your teacher-friend a chemistry teacher? Do they have industry experience?
    Does she complain when she doesn’t have to go scrape ice & snow off her car because class was cancelled because of the weather (something that has happened a TOTAL of 3 times in my 17 years of industry experience).
    Does she complain when she has off the same days her children do so she doesn’t have to find a sitter to cover (yet another scramble on a cancelled school day).

    And if she doesn’t feel she is getting paid enough, shop around. If there are so many math & science teachers in need, I would guess the higher paying school districts would be the place to start.

    My comments were in reference to the others who seem to have forgotten that teaching is more about the kids, and not about raking in the big bucks.

  7. Chemist says:

    Hi ‘Dissappointed’

    The person in question teaches in a different area. She is actually glad to go to work, because she earns money in doing so. She is a single mom, too. So shopping around is not a strong option for her. But her salary sucks in addition to it only being for nine months. As well, the “Donghong Sun” story does not reveal whether she is a single income single mom.

    Isn’t it odd that the people who posted this blog are so strangely quiet? They are the ones who need to get the feedback – or are they expecting to just get away with another advertisement? By name, I mean:
    (1) “Mary Ellen Clark is Executive Director of the Central New Jersey WIRED Bio-1 initiative” and
    (2) “Darlene Yoseloff, Director of School Relations, Middlesex County College”.

    Otherwise this is just more “good times” propaganda a la C&E News (yawn).

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    • ronny says:

      How do you define “enough money” I have been in the mortgage industry for over 20 years and I have settled many mortgages for math and science teachers with incomes no less the $80,000 per year and as high as $128,000 per year. These are not starting salaries, but they took the teachers at least ten years to achieve this scale. High School teachers making >$80,000 per year plus perks and that’s not enough income to bring you into the field. So, someone needs to tell me how to define enough money please!

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