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First-of-its-Kind Teacher Apprenticeship Program Launched at UCCS

This article originally appeared on Communique

UCCS has partnered with Calhan School District to offer a new K-12 Teacher Apprenticeship program. The program, offered through the College of Education, helps paraprofessionals become certified to teach in their own classrooms. 

“There’s a huge teacher shortage, especially in the rural communities, it’s especially difficult to recruit and retain teachers there,” explained Katie Anderson-Pence, Interim Associate Dean for the College of Education. “What this program looks to do is help people who are already at those schools, working as a paraprofessional or a teacher’s aide, to help them get their teaching license.”

“They’re already in the community, and they’re many times already teaching a class as a long-term substitute or something of the sort,” she said. “The apprenticeship program helps those people get access to educational resources and allows them to step up their salary as they’re working on their teaching license.” 

Calhan School District originally approached Anderson-Pence with the idea for an apprenticeship offering, and the timing was perfect — she had just returned from an American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) conference that offered insights on precisely that kind of program.  

“We developed what we wanted it to look like based on some other programs in the country, and then we worked with the workforce center in Colorado Springs to make sure it was in alignment with the Department of Labor guidelines for apprenticeships,” Anderson-Pence said. 

The program was approved by the United States Department of Labor as the first registered K-12 Teacher Apprenticeship Program in Colorado.  

There is an application process, and some classroom experience is required. But once participants take a certain number of classes and show competency in a few key areas, they can move to the next level in the apprenticeship, which allows them to have their own classroom.  

“What this program does is allow schools to give those professionals who are already in the classroom educating our students the opportunity to receive significant support and actionable feedback while they pursue a path to licensure,” said Stephanie Curtis, a Teacher Apprenticeship Sponsor with Calhan School District. 

According to a press release from Calhan School District, the main objectives of the program are to improve student outcomes by providing training and education for the adults who are already working with students every day, and to honor those adults, the experience they bring with them to the classroom, and their determination by providing an affordable and accessible path to becoming teachers. 

According to the CDE Colorado Educator Shortage Survey Results Dashboard, there were 844 unfilled positions for the 2021-2022 school year, and 425 teaching positions were filled by long-term substitutes. 

The apprenticeship program specially targets those individuals who are serving those long-term substitute positions. The individuals filling these positions exemplify the dedication and experience working with students that schools are looking for. The program aims to increase their knowledge of content, best practices, understanding of state standards, school laws and regulations, student growth expectations and outcomes and much more.  

The program starts out with online classes for convenience, although that also helps with the cost. There are currently 20 participants starting in the apprenticeship program this fall from various rural school districts.  

The goal is that this program will help solve the problem of having unlicensed teachers in the classroom, as well as teacher recruitment and retention. Proponents of the program are hoping to expand it beyond rural areas and bring it into the city schools as well.  

“This has the potential to really blossom and support the teacher shortage, not just in rural schools but in the city schools as well,” Anderson-Pence said. “The hope is that other school districts, having seen what we’re doing in the rural schools, will want to develop and submit their own apprenticeship programs. 

If you are interested in learning more about this apprenticeship, how it was developed or how your district can be an employer with the apprenticeship, please contact Stephanie Curtis at 719-329-8481.