Recruiting paraprofessionals requires ongoing support
- As districts nationwide continue seeking qualified STEM teachers, the high-poverty Guilford County school system in Greensboro, NC, is still one of just a few districts nationwide operating an in-house certification pathway for that purpose, Education Week reports.
- Approaches like this have garnered criticism for the potential of lowering teacher prep standards, but districts like Guilford often tout the first-hand, "real-world" industry experience recruits to such programs are often able to bring to students, according to Ed Week.
- Guilford's program focuses on providing ongoing instruction and mentorship to teaching recruits from STEM backgrounds beyond their first year in the classroom, creating a support network to increase the likelihood of retaining those new educators.
Put simply, as anyone who has ever set foot in the classroom can attest, teaching is difficult. Even those who have been through years of traditional teacher preparation programs can struggle early on, hence the criticism leveled at alternative pathway programs that seek to recruit professionals or recent college graduates, as Teach For America does on the latter front. Ultimately, however, success and retention in either case is a matter of providing the needed ongoing support and professional development opportunities — aside, of course, from the necessary passion for the field.
And for as many stories of failure in these instances that can be touted, there are likely as many successes. For example, Shawn Bush, a paraprofessional at Leo Politi Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), joined the district through its STEP UP and Teach program, aimed at giving financial support and mentoring to professionals wishing to become full-time teachers in hard-to-fill areas like special education. The former advertising and marketing professional now reflects on his success in transitioning, saying he “realized it was meant to be.”
As an added bonus in these programs, many of the recruits often come from the communities in which their schools are located, which can help boost the number of educators in a school who share similar backgrounds and experiences with students.
- Education Week Need a STEM Teacher? This District Trains Its Own
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