Academics

Carolina, NC State to prepare more teachers for elementary and special education

A $200,000 grant from the SECU Foundation will advance the teacher licensure program and offer scholarships for North Carolina teachers.

A teacher points to a whiteboard as students raise their hands.

An online teacher licensure program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University will help fulfill the state’s need for licensed elementary and special education teachers thanks to a generous grant from the State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation.

The $200,000 grant will create new training modules in the existing Pathway to Practice NC online licensure program. The new modules will allow teachers to work towards specialized licensures in either elementary education or special education. The grant will also provide scholarships for 10 North Carolina teachers to complete the online training.

The state has experienced consistent teacher shortages in both special education and core subject elementary education for years. To manage these shortages, many North Carolina school districts fill the vacancies with residency licensed teachers — individuals with a bachelor’s degree and content knowledge, but without a full teaching license. To continue working as an educator, residency licensed teachers must complete coursework to earn their full teaching license within three years.

According to the state’s report, North Carolina had 5,636 of these residency licensed teachers in 2018 — a 21% increase over the previous year. In 2017, UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Education and the NC State College of Education launched Pathway to Practice NC as one way to help these residency licensed teachers become fully licensed and stay in the classroom.

Pathway to Practice NC is a self-paced, competency-based online program designed for working adults to complete that required coursework and meet their licensure requirement from anywhere. The state-approved educator preparation program provides a competency-based online program for residency licensed teachers. Pathway to Practice NC provides facilitator coaches to both support and extend preparation that is tailored to residency license teachers’ needs.

“This funding from the SECU Foundation helps our partnership build capacity to address a growing need in North Carolina for teachers in critical content areas, and to do so by expanding a high-quality program that is designed to be responsive to the needs of working educators and schools,” said Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of the School of Education at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Mary Ann Danowitz, dean of the NC State College of Education, said: “Thanks to the SECU Foundation, Pathway to Practice NC will be able to support more career changers and prepare them to become highly effective teachers. This is a critical investment because we know that teachers are the most influential school-based factor on student success, and the SECU Foundation is providing resources to attract and retain talented individuals who will improve the lives of K-12 students across the state, especially in high-need school districts.”

In addition to developing new, specialized training content, the grant from the SECU Foundation will also fund scholarships for 10 individuals who want to become fully licensed to teach in special education and elementary education. Scholarship priority will be given to those who would bring their new skillset to Tier 1 communities, the 40 most economically distressed counties in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s annual ranking of all 100 counties.

“North Carolina has a growing need for fully licensed educators in elementary education and special education,” said Bob Brinson, SECU Foundation Board Chair. “We are hopeful that this investment will help fill that gap, and do so in a way that is cost effective and convenient for educators who can benefit from this program.”

The Pathway to Practice NC program currently enrolls 70 residency license teachers from across the state. Enrollment in the program costs $5,000. For more information, visit this site.