White Plains launches teaching assistant initiative for high school grads
Leaders with the White Plains City School District are trying to address a nationwide and regional teacher shortage that has only been worsening.
The district just launched its Educator Pathway Pilot Program, which is designed to fast-track students into the education field.
Senior Nuala Stanghellini, who led Thursday's ceremony unveiling the program, is considering a career as a math teacher or special education teacher.
One of 29 students who started the pilot program this school year, Stanghellini is already taking college-level classes on education.
"I'm in foundation elementary education right now," she said, "and I'll be in the diverse learner [class] next semester."
Assemblyman Chris Burdick and State Sen. Shelley Mayer secured $40,000 for the district to pay for the first round of early credits toward degrees at SUNY, Pace and other colleges.
"We can transfer these credits over, and we can start a little ahead on the education courses, get to that student teaching a little quicker, and come back to teach," Stanghellini said.
White Plains Teachers' Union President Kara McCormick-Lyons, one of the original visionaries of the program, hopes to program eventually becomes standard statewide to counter the country's teacher shortage.
National data compiled by experts at the Penn State Center for Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis show a 40% drop in students in teacher-preparation programs since 2008.
McCormick-Lyons said students may be turned off to the education field because of the rising cost of college and high stress level that has become a national conversation over the last three years.
"Educators went from being heroes to zeros for a brief period of time," McCormick-Lyons said, referring to tension between parents and school staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Educator Pathway Program was designed to alleviate those concerns.
The program offers training on how to manage the stress of teaching, covers some tuition costs and qualifies students for other jobs in classrooms.
"Many children need the opportunity to work while they're going to school," McCormick Lyons explained. "These students, upon the completion of this program are going to be able to be teaching assistants whether it's here or in other local districts while they pursue their degree, which is an incredible, empowering opportunity for students to have income while they're going to school."
McCormick-Lyons said there is not currently a significant shortage of teachers in the White Plains City School District, but stressed how important it is to begin training Spanish-speaking teachers particularly, because they anticipate more families from Spanish-speaking countries will be settling in the district in the coming years.