Elementary Education (K-6)


What’s our Secret to Success in Teacher Formation?

AMU’s unique 64 unit liberal arts core is what will form you and set you apart. Any school can train you to teach, Ave will give you something to teach about!  In our carefully structured academic core, you will develop a deep knowledge of all key academic disciplines taught with integrity and integration by caring professors who will know you by name.

With a love for life, knowledge, and truth, you will then learn specific skills and techniques to reach even the most at-risk students. You will have the chance to train and hone your skills in some of the most demanding situations with some of the most at-risk students in the country. This unparalleled experience will give you the skills and confidence to work in any educational environment- a point which will not be lost on your future principals.

Who you are as a fully alive human person is what will touch the hungry hearts and souls of the students who will ultimately be placed in your care for formation. Pedagogical skills alone will not suffice. You need to demand more of your education and preparation because your students will demand more of you as a human being before they let you into their lives, their hopes, and their dreams.  We are here to serve their dreams and yours.

You are needed.

We simply cannot keep up with the demand from public, classical, and Catholic schools for our program completers. We need you!

100% of our program completers have received contract offers even before graduation, with first-year offers averaging over $40,000. They need you!

Our state-of-the-art, state-approved program is aligned with current best practices and exceeds state licensing and preparation requirements.

Our first-time pass rate on all sections of the K-6 teacher exam is more than double the state average.

Become a certified teacher at Ave Maria University! Our K-6 Elementary Education major is approved by the state of Florida as an initial teacher preparation program.  Graduates qualify for Florida professional certification for grades K-6, including ESOL and Reading Endorsements.

The need is great! Contact us today to get started on your path to teaching!

Explore the Elementary Education Program

The Elementary (K-6th) Education major seeks to further teaching, inquiry, and scholarship in the field of education with a special focus on Catholic and classical education. While examining the field of education using methodologies and practices proper to the discipline, the program will maintain a deliberate and explicit foundation in the philosophical and theological insights of the Catholic tradition, especially its understandings related to the nature and dignity of the human person, the nature of Truth, and the unity of all knowledge as ultimately rooted in the order of creation and God.

In Ave Maria University’s Education major you will experience:

  • Up to date teaching standards, expectations, and best practices, but rooted firmly in the liberal arts and resting on a deep understanding of the dignity of the human person as a son or daughter of God.
  • Extensive hands-on experiences in real classrooms under trained master teachers during each of the 4 semesters of the major.
  • Immediate and intimate access to caring professors with extensive degrees and years of service in small classes of about 15 students.
  • 100% contract offers to program completers before graduation
  • Double the state average of first-time pass rates for all sections of the Florida K-6 Teacher Exam.

In addition to the core curriculum, elementary education majors take the following courses (64 Credits)

  • EDUC 201 Educational Foundations (4 credits)
  • EDUC 203 Career Path (0 credits)
  • EDUC 204 Practicum I (2 credits)
  • EDUC 210 Measurement and Assessment in the Classroom (3 credits)
  • EDUC 220 Instructional Strategies (3 credits)
  • EDUC 230 Reading Instruction: Principles and Methods (3 credits)
  • EDUC 240 Classroom Management and Organization (3 credits)
  • EDUC 250 ESOL Foundations (3 credits)
  • EDUC 302 Educational Psychology (4 credits)
  • EDUC 304 Practicum II (2 credits)
  • EDUC 310 Teaching Social Studies in the Classroom (3 credits)
  • EDUC 330 Reading Instruction: Assessment and Differentiation (3 credits)
  • EDUC 340 Teaching Diverse and Exceptional Students (3 credits)
  • EDUC 350 ESOL: Curriculum and Methods (3 credits)
  • EDUC 370 Teaching Language Arts in the Classroom (3 credits)
  • EDUC 380 Teaching Mathematics in the Classroom (3 credits)
  • EDUC 390 Teaching Science in the Classroom (3 credits)
  • EDUC 400 Internship with Seminar (14 credits)
  • EDUC 404 Practicum III (2 credits)

Ave Maria University is located in the Collier County Public school district and works closely with them. The district is currently growing and experiencing a real need for teachers. Our graduates will on average have spent a total of 40 or more full days serving as aids in at least 3 different schools over the period of three semesters, and another full 14 weeks of student teaching in the schools. A number of our faculty are also active K-6 teachers, trainers, and administrators ensuring the most up to date, relevant and real-world  formation by those working in the field. Our graduates are ready to move right into a public or private school teaching position.

We are also extremely well connected to various dioceses and Catholic school networks around the nation seeking faithful teachers. Catholic school leaders are especially interested in hiring our uniquely well-formed graduates to enhance the academic quality and authentic Catholic identity of their schools. Ave Maria means excellence!

Because of your liberal arts core preparation, Classical schools, including many of the growing number of classical charter schools, are desperate for our graduates. Many AMU graduates are already active in these schools and their leaders come directly to us seeking to fill the growing need, not just for teachers, but teachers “who get” the classical tradition and are well versed with first-hand experience in a liberal arts environment. Something AMU is uniquely positioned to deliver, even among other faithful Catholic schools.

Christina Anderson, M.Ed.

Adjunct Instructor of Education
Education: B.S., Business Management, University of South Florida; M.Ed., Education Leadership, Florida Gulf Coast University

Pete Cade, Ed.D.

Adjunct Instructor of Education
Education: B.S., Elementary Education, Florida Gulf Coast University; M.Ed., Educational Leadership, Florida Gulf Coast University; Ed.D., Teacher Leadership, Concordia University

Kathy Christensen, Ed.D.

Associate Professor of Education 
Education: B.S., Elementary Education, Miami University; M.Ed., Curriculum & Instruction, University of South Florida; Ed.S., Teaching & Teaching Education, University of Florida; Ed.D., Curriculum & Instruction, University of Florida
Office: Canizaro Library 230
Phone: (239) 304-7932

Abigail Fuller, Ed.D.

Chair of the Education Department, Assistant Professor of Education
Education: B.S., Elementary Education and Dance, Slippery Rock University; M.Ed., Education Leadership, Florida Gulf Coast University; Ed.D., Education Administration, University of Florida
Office: Canizaro Library 229
Phone: (239) 280-1631

Kate Sandlin, Ed.S.

Adjunct Instructor of Education
Education: B.A., English, Louisiana State University; M.S., Educational Leadership, Nova Southeastern University; Ed.S., Education Specialist, University of Florida; Ed.S., Education Specialist, University of West Florida

Lynne Swosinski, Ed.D.

Adjunct Instructor of Education
Education: B.S., Physical Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; B.S., Elementary Education, Florida Gulf Coast University; M.A., Reading, Florida Gulf Coast University; D.Ed., Curriculum & Teaching, Northcentral University

Alexis Casterline (2019) – An Ohio native, Alexis is a 3rd grade teacher at Rhodora J. Donahue Academy, a Diocese of Venice classical Catholic school, in Ave Maria, FL. She also taught first grade in Immokalee, FL at a school with underprivileged children. According to Alexis, “My favorite memory from the Education Department was the professors’ commitment to helping future AMU educators practice lesson plans and find their niche in the classroom. I enjoyed the community that was formed among my fellow classmates. Together we were able to do experiments, present lesson plans, and share ideas so that we could become the teachers God was calling us to be. I also enjoyed getting to observe a variety of different classrooms throughout my semesters in the education program. It helped me see the vast teaching options that are available in the education field.” Her favorite scripture is “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

Teresa Henderson (2021) – Teresa is a 3rd grade teacher at Naples Classical Academy, a charter school, in Naples, FL. She was the Valedictorian of her class and a double major in Elementary Education and History. Her favorite memory from the Education Department is the student teaching internship. She states, “I’ll never forget the first grader who complimented me, “’You’re a good helper!’ after a one-on-one session in phonics.” Additional fond memories of AMU include conversations with friends and classmates, outdoor Communion during the spring of 2020. Her favorite scripture is the Prologue of the Gospel of John, 1:1-18, particularly 1:14 “And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory.”

Jill (Riordan) Striz (2015) – Jill is the Assistant Principal at Village Oaks Elementary in Immokalee, FL, where she had previously been a teacher since graduating from AMU. Jill was the 2019 recipient of the prestigious “Golden Apple Award” by the Champions for Learning Education Foundation. This is only awarded to 5 teachers each year in all of Collier County. Jill met her husband while at AMU and is a guest lecturer for the department.

Mary (Eckard) Parilli (2015) – Originally from Iowa, Mary has been teaching for 6 years and is now a teacher in North Carolina. She describes her best memory of her time at AMU as “meeting her husband.” Mary was the captain of the AMU Volleyball team, and during her teaching career in Immokalee, FL Mary was the 2018 “Golden Apple Award” recipient. Mary shares these words of wisdom for future teachers from St. John Bosco: “In every young person, a point of goodness is accessible and it is the primary duty of the educator to discover that sensitive cord of the heart so as to draw out the best in the young person.”

Application to the education major must be formally requested (normally during the sophomore year) and approved by the department chair only after meeting several requirements as outlined below. Reception of the degree in Education also involves meeting numerous additional requirements as outlined below.


Because this program is approved by the State of Florida as an Initial Teacher Preparation Program and results in state license eligibility in Florida, we must adhere to multiple assessment and quality control policies. There are multiple requirements beyond simple course completion which govern this major.

Teacher candidates will be fingerprinted and must undergo and pass background clearance as part of completion of the major. Teacher candidates with a felony conviction may be disqualified from admittance into the teaching major at AMU and possibly disqualified from receiving a Florida teaching license. Any concerns should be brought proactively to the department chair for evaluation before entering the major.

The Major in Elementary Education

Teacher candidates normally formally begin the major in the fall of the junior year after completing prerequisite courses in educational foundations, educational psychology, and a teaching discernment seminar. Teacher candidates must maintain a 2.5 grade point average throughout the program and a minimum grade point average of 2.5 in all education coursework. A grade below a C- in any education course necessitates repeating the course.

Education courses are typically taken in concurrent 12 unit blocks for each of the first three semesters. These courses contain clinical placement-based activities which are completed via a practicum experience. Teacher candidates need to reserve either one full day or two half-days a week during these first three semesters to complete the clinical placement components. Teacher candidates will also need to arrange for their own transportation to the clinical placement sites which are typically 15 to 30 minutes away from campus. A formal application to internship must be completed prior to a final semester of the program. During the internship, teacher candidates will assume the full schedule and duties of a classroom teacher. Due to the demanding time and workload, teacher candidates are expected to limit the academic workload and alter their extracurricular activities so as to be available for a full regular school day during the final internship. Any outside employment during the internship semester is discouraged and must be approved by the department chair.


Benchmarks for Progress for the Education Major Teacher Licensure Program

Each benchmark must be passed before the teacher candidate may proceed on to the next benchmark. Waivers sought for unforeseen circumstances may be brought to the attention of the department Chair. An Ombudsman is available to facilitate and clarify any concerns related to progression through the major up to and including recommendation for licensure. The program does not admit students under the 10% waiver.


Benchmark #1 Preparation and Application into the Education Major Teacher Licensure ProgramStudents interested in pursuing the Education major resulting in a teaching certificate through the State of Florida must first take and pass, with a C- or better three courses:

EDUC 201 Educational Foundations (4 cr.)

EDUC 301 Human Growth and Learning or EDUC 202 Educational Psychology (4 cr.)

EDUC 203 Discernment/Career Topics (0 cr.)

  • Transfer credit for courses taken with similar titles from other universities is discouraged as the content and presentation of the courses offered at AMU are situated uniquely within a Catholic perspective emphasizing the integrity and dignity of the human person, and the courses are tied to specific demonstration of competencies required by the state of Florida.

During the EDUC 203 Discernment/Career Topics course, usually taken in the spring of the sophomore year:

  • Teacher candidates will take the Myers-Briggs assessment to help them reflect on their personal attributes and how these might affect their career in teaching. Teacher candidates will also evaluate themselves in terms of the department’s dispositions and produce a letter of recommendation from a teacher or adult mentor who can attest to their potential to develop in the dispositions.
  • Teacher candidates must take all sections of the FTCE General Knowledge Test. Ave Maria University must be designated as a score recipient with the testing agency.
  • Teacher candidates will fill out an application to acceptance into the Education major.


Benchmark #2 – Admission to Program

This benchmark is normally met at the end of the spring semester of the sophomore year or over the summer before the junior year.

  • Department staff issues an official notice of acceptance into the program after approval of the teacher candidate’s application. The application includes a documented GPA of 2.5 or better in all coursework; a C- or better in the three EDUC prerequisites above; a letter of recommendation; proof of background clearance; and passing score on all sections of the FTCE General Knowledge test.
  • The teacher candidate is now clear to take the following EDUC Classes: 304, 330, 350, 340, and 404.
  • The teacher candidate must maintain an overall GPA of 2.5 and a minimum C- in all Education coursework. Grades below C- must be repeated and will be recorded on the transcripts per the AMU academic policy handbook. Grades will be checked by the department at the end of each semester.
  • During this stage, and before the internship during the senior year, the teacher candidate must take and pass the FTCE Subject Matter Test and the Professional Knowledge Test. Ave Maria University must be designated as a score recipient with the testing agency.
  • The teacher candidate must complete all critical assignments at the proficient level before leaving this stage.

Each education course has “critical assignments” embedded within the flow of the course assessments. These assignments are designed to challenge the teacher candidate to more deeply and fully understand and apply educational concepts and theories. These assignments are tied to mandated competencies by the state of Florida. Late completion of a critical assignment, while required for graduation, may not affect the teacher candidate’s final grade. The course instructor will assess all critical assignments. Transfer students must complete the critical assignments required by AMU for any education course for which transfer credit is accepted.

Teacher candidates must complete all designated “critical assignments” with a passing grade of 75% or higher. All FEAPS critical assignments must also be met at the “proficient” or “exemplary” levels. Teacher candidates who do not meet these scores will have the opportunity to repeat the assignment and turn it in before the final course exam. Should the assignment not be turned in at the due date for the final course exam, the teacher candidate will receive an “Incomplete” (I) for two weeks after which the grade will revert to the original grade awarded or a zero. Teacher candidates not passing a critical assignment after the two week period will need to go into the remediation process and work with an education professor to re-do the assignment until the assignment is satisfactorily completed.  All critical assignments up to the EDUC 400 Internship must be satisfactorily completed before the teacher candidate may proceed into the next benchmark of the teaching internship. All critical assignments are completed and tracked in the TK20 system.

  • At the conclusion of this stage teacher candidates will submit an application to the internship. The application will include a verification page that the teacher candidate has read the AMU Internship Handbook.


Benchmark #3 – Admission to Internship

This benchmark is met during the final semester of the program.

  • Department staff issues an official notice of acceptance into the program after approval of the teacher candidate’s Admission to Internship application. The application includes a documented GPA of 2.5 or better in all coursework, successfully completing all critical tasks at the proficient or exemplary level and the reception of a passing score on all sections of the FTCE Professional Knowledge and relevant subject matter test(s).
  • Once accepted, the teacher candidate will be accepted into EDUC 400 Internship, assigned a cooperating school, principal, and cooperating teacher as well as a university designated clinical supervisor. The clinical supervisor will oversee the intern’s progress during the internship and along with the cooperating teacher will provide assistance, support, and feedback to the teacher candidate. The internship will typically be 14 weeks long and require participation in a seminar.  The teacher candidate must successfully pass a public school district evaluation as determined by the clinical supervisor. The interns must also pass all evaluative criteria in the intern handbook including demonstrated impact on student learning.


Benchmark #4 – Graduation

This benchmark is usually met at the conclusion of the spring semester of the senior year.

  • A checklist for graduation must be initiated and prepared by the teacher candidate by April 15 for a spring graduation. The teacher candidate will submit a completed checklist with the graduation application to the education department chair for review at least three weeks prior to graduation. This will be done in addition to the University procedure for graduation common to all majors. The teacher candidate will work closely with the education department faculty advisor to ensure all benchmarks and requirements have been met prior to submitting graduation application.
  • The department chair will carefully review each application for completeness and, if met, forward the information to the registrar.

Will successful completion of this program result in a Florida teaching license
Yes! Ave Maria University’s education major is approved by the state of Florida as an initial teacher preparation program. Graduates qualify for Florida professional certification for grades K-6, including ESOL and Reading Endorsements. We will stamp your transcripts with this certification. You will submit these transcripts to the Florida Department of Education and once confirmed they will issue your license!

What if I want to teach in another state immediately after graduation?
In most cases, reciprocity agreements between the states make getting a license from another state relatively easy after you graduate from AMU’s approved program. We will assist you in this transition, which may sometimes also involve taking the target state’s teachers exams; but once you pass Florida’s exams you will be well prepared, as teacher exams can be quite similar. You should contact your target state’s department of education and let them know that you are graduating a state-approved teacher preparation program in a regionally accredited university and they can talk you through any additional steps, if any to get your license from them.

How do I get certified to teach exceptional (“special needs”) students?
In Florida, as in many states, you can add endorsements to your basic teaching license. Florida lets you take a fill-in-the-bubble exam after graduation to add an Exeptional Student Education endorsement. Our program will partially prepare you for this exam. Additional test preparation resources are readily available online.

What if I want to teach high school?
AMU is great preparation for high school teachers! Our graduates are highly sought after by high schools and many of our graduates get multiple high school job offers before graduation, even without a teaching license. We cannot even come close to meeting the demand high schools have for our graduates.

We recommend that those who want to teach high school major in the discipline they would like to teach with an education minor. The minor will provide most critical coursework necessary for high school teaching and help prepare you for teacher certification exams. Possession of the minor will signal your potential high school employers that you have both deep subject matter competency and basic teaching skills, and assist in your job application.

After you graduate with your discipline-specific BA of BS with a teaching minor, you will pursue what most states call “alternative certification.” You will usually first get a three year temporary teaching certificate and then over the next few years demonstrate successful teaching on the job, take any remaining coursework (may or may not be required depending upon your state and can be done online) and pass any of your target state’s required teacher exams. Every state has its own requirements, please contact the Chair of the Education Department for full details and assistance in planning your post-graduation teacher training.