To alleviate the teacher shortage, a pilot program in Tucson is offering free tuition of $ 1,000 per month

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TUCSON – The University of Arizona and a neighboring school district are working on a pilot program aimed at addressing a teacher shortage in order to “grow” Tucson residents into teachers by offering free classes and a monthly grant of US $ 1,000. Pay dollars.

Pathways to Teaching, an educational program and support system, will help 10 people get their K-8 teaching degree in 17 months – and reduce teacher counts and retention problems, proponents say. The pilot program with 10 potential teachers includes a class assistant, a member of a parent-teacher association of a school and a member of the health clinic.

Karla Amezcua, 26, works as an appointment planner at a health clinic but intends to quit her job in January to start on the Pathways program.

“When I graduated from high school and was preparing for college,” she said, “I had kind of an identity crisis. My mother had me when she went to college to be a teacher, so I wanted to be a teacher for her, but I didn’t know what I wanted for myself. “

Amezcua changed her major in social work, but switched back to training after a few credits. She eventually left college tempted by the opportunity to make money without needing a degree.

Now with a family to support, Amezcua will return to education. Her mother-in-law, who has a Masters Degree in Education, forwarded the Pathways application to her earlier this year.

Marcy Wood, the director of Pathways to Teaching and director of teaching, learning, and socioculture at the University of Arizona, said she started the program to address the problem of teacher retention in Arizona. She admits the program is small, but sees it as an example for other states and schools.

“The goal is to work on this idea of ​​people getting into the teaching profession and then leaving,” said Wood. “They go to do other things, dissatisfied with the job, go to other school districts where there may be other resources.”

Each Pathways student will receive a $ 17,000 scholarship spread over the duration of the program and $ 23,500 tuition fees – a total of $ 40,502, Wood said.

Arizona teachers often suffer Student debt they cannot repay a teacher’s salarysaid Governor Doug Ducey in his 2017 State of State Address. The Pathways program draws funding from Ducey’s Arizona Teachers Academy, established by the Governor in 2017.

“I’m looking for the best and brightest who commit to teaching in Arizona public schools,” said Ducey. “When you make that commitment, we make that commitment: your education is paid for, a job is waiting, and you are debt-free.”

Wood said funding for the Pathways students’ free classes comes from a partnership between the University of Arizona and the Arizona Teachers Academy.

Teacher churn across the country has risen sharply in the past 15 years, and a third of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching, according to nonprofit education organization Expect More Arizona.

The program, which begins in January, offers the junior and senior year equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in education. Instead of attending classes at the university, students are paired to teach in a K-8 class in the Sunnyside Unified School District. You will also take traditional classes at the district’s Los Niños Elementary School.

To be accepted, students must have earned an associate degree or equivalent in general education credits, which, according to the creators of the program, shows a student’s commitment to the teaching profession.

Upon graduation, newly certified teachers must teach in an Arizona public school for a minimum of two years. Wood hopes that the time Sunnyside learns during her apprenticeship will encourage her to stay in Tucson.

Candidates for the program will be selected from among Sunnyside employees and other Tucson residents. Of the 10 people starting in several weeks, some are teacher assistants. One person applying in 2021 is a bus driver, said Pathways to Teaching coordinator Maria Orosco.

Amezcua has worked through her identity crisis but is a little worried about how the school is going.

“I’m nervous because I haven’t been to school in five years,” said Amezcua. “I was the one who learned differently in school, I wasn’t a visual learner – and since I spoke Spanish, I didn’t always get the help I needed to understand concepts.”

Amezcua said she came back to help people like herself because her degree comes with a confirmation of English as a second language.

“I never wanted to be in the medical field,” said Amezcua. “I took this job this year because I was out of a job for a while, but this new thing is one of the greatest opportunities I’ve ever had in college.”

Since the conditions for receiving money from the Arizona Teachers Academy include teaching at an Arizona public school for two years after graduation, Amezcua hopes she can stay at the Sunnyside school she is assigned to.

Marcy Wood, teaching director at the University of Arizona College of Education, and Steve Holmes, superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District, are piloting a pilot project to improve teacher retention in Arizona. Photo by Mara Friedman | Cronkite news

Sunnyside School District Superintendent Steve Holmes agrees to withdraw candidates from the Tucson area.

“When I heard that Marcy was involved in this unique idea of ​​preparing teachers in-house, I was really excited about the concept,” said Holmes. “Of course, it’s no secret in Arizona that we have had a shortage of teachers staying in the field.”

Laura Garcia is a special education teacher at the district’s Santa Clara Elementary School who had to give up her dream of becoming a teacher for financial reasons.

After her mother’s death in 2017, Garcia recalled a conversation with her that inspired her to pursue her original dream of becoming a teacher.

“That was my ‘Okay, take it up and go back to school and just do it,’” she said, “because she and I talked about that all the time. So I went back to school and started improving my grades. “

After attending Grand Canyon University for nearly two years, Garcia had to drop out this year because her mother had given financial aid.

“I quit because I couldn’t financially afford my classes,” she said.

She continued to work as a special education teacher at the Santa Clara School.

“I’ve been here at Sunnyside for two years now and it really confirmed that I wanted to do that. I had a fun time there with the students and now I want my own classroom, ”she said.

Garcia said she is now waking up excited to go to work and since being a teacher is one of the more stable things in special education children, it’s an incredibly fulfilling task. She looks forward to working in a familiar environment and participating in a support program.

“I worked really hard for this,” she said.

Debra Bergman, Sunnyside’s Chief Human Resources Development Officer, worked closely with UA on the application process as Pathways students will serve as full-time tutors at the start of the program in January.

“It was great to hear their dedication to why they wanted to join this program and their love for learning and their commitment to the community because they either grew up here or started working here and built such strong relationships with the website and the people they work with, ”said Bergman, who has worked in the district for 37 years.

Holmes encouraged other universities and school districts to try the same approach to increase teacher retention, but cautioned that Pathways may not work in some districts.

“You have to see whether you have built up a sense of community in the institution. Unless you are in a district that has a strong sense of community, I am not sure you will get the results that are really meant to be part of this program, ”said Holmes.

Bergman said the months at a Sunnyside school will lead to a strong foundation “where they learned the headmaster’s expectations, worked with peers in that grade, and met the kids and parents.”

When Pathways students become full-time teachers upon graduation, they know what is expected of them and don’t have to start building that foundation the first day, she said.



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