William Carey University - Pandemic Partnership Response
The School of Education at William Carey University has noticed the teacher shortage in the state of Mississippi. As a university that has a long history dedicated to providing quality teachers, the Dean of Education, Dr. Burnett created partnerships with seven school districts to create qualified teachers.
Through the Alternate Route program at William Carey, individuals with a bachelor's degree in a noneducation background can be a part of this program and earn their teaching license.
The program allows interested community members, affiliated with each school district, to enroll in two education courses, EDU 536 Classroom Management and EDU 650 Test & Measurements. When the two courses are successfully completed, the individuals would then be eligible to apply for their teaching license and would become qualified candidates to fill the role of the empty teaching positions.
The two required classes were made convenient to the school district's participants by being offered on a nearby location. Instead of making a long drive to the William Carey Campus, the classes were taught on location. This made the classes more available to working individuals who might not have otherwise been able to take the classes. Now, the classes are even offered virtually so that students may take them from any remote location.
Some qualified personal from the partnering school districts even volunteered to teach the classes. The volunteers in this program freely gave of their time to help train new teachers who would serve their school districts. By having qualified individuals on-site teach the courses, teacher candidates were familiar with their instructors and were able to find ongoing support from them as they began their teaching careers.
In order to advertise for the partnerships, William Carey University offered interests meetings in each district, emailed advertisements, and even created videos to share on social media. The alternate route specialist, Dr. Cassandra Weiss, is available to help the teacher candidates through the enrollment and
licensure process so that they always have a caring and informative advisor available to answer any questions they may have and provide ongoing support at any time. For many adults who have been out of the classroom for years, it is comforting to have a direct contact who is available to be an advocate for them with MDE and be current on licensure requirements.
William Carey University was also able to secure grants that allowed many of the teacher candidates to avoid paying tuition, or pay a fraction of the tuition. An example of this was a grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation that helped the teacher shortage in Meridian School District. This particular grant in the amount of $20,000 dollars allowed 10 people to take the courses for free. In the event that more than 10 people signed up to participate, William Carey University offered to cover the tuition cost for the additional students. Other grants were also secured to aid the other school district involved with this partnership as well.
"Dedicated, high-quality teachers are the most important factor in the success of our public schools, and there's a crisis in teacher availability and retention in Mississippi right now," said Lloyd Gray, executive director of the Hardin Foundation. "The school districts face a major challenge in recruiting and retaining good teachers, and the Hardin Foundation is pleased to be a partner with William Carey University in an important initiative that will help school districts meet that challenge."
"Alternate route teachers have had much success in filling the needs for the teacher shortage," said Dr. Ben Burnett, Dean of the WCU School of Education. "I am very excited to help solve the teacher shortage." The cost of additional coursework is one of the challenges for people who decide they want to be teachers after receiving their degree in another field. This partnership eliminates that hurdle for many prospective teachers. Jackson Public School District is another example of our partnership that offers free tuition to teacher candidates to be part of this program.
School age children benefit immensely from this partnership because they are provided with teachers who are trained to be in the classroom. Many of the new teachers were already present in the school districts in some way. They may have been teacher assistants, book-keepers, or parent volunteers, but the students are familiar with their faces and feel "at home" around them. By keeping them in the school and qualifying them to become certified teachers, the students and new teachers benefit from this partnership.
When a community comes together to offer a quality education to its children, everyone in the community benefits. William Carey University has reached its hand out and placed it in remote communities across the state to extend our campus and resources so that schools can succeed. This, in turn, will benefit our state on a much greater level in the years to come.
Lamar, Ocean Springs, Moss Point, Vicksburg, Jackson Public, Winona, and Meridian School Districts.