Three local colleges and universities received federal dollars this week to train and develop future teachers who will eventually work for area schools with some of the highest needs.
The $4.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education comes at an important time for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, which is facing a teacher shortage, an issue that is plaguing school districts across the country. The school district had 35 teacher vacancies as Sept. 13.
Leslie Alexander, the school district’s chief human resources officer, told the school board on Tuesday that the newly announced grant is one of several programs in place that the district hopes will serve as a pipeline into the local classrooms.
“What we want are high-equality, effective, permanent educators to work with our children once they’ve committed to our district,” she said.
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The Teacher Quality Partnership grant will involve graduate students at Winston-Salem State University, Wake Forest University and Salem College working with the school district in a program called Winston-Salem Teachers for Equity, Achievement, Community and Humanity or WS-TEACH.
The program’s goal is to recruit, prepare and retain 120 highly-qualified teachers in three areas: special education (K-12), elementary education (K-6) and high school, over a five-year period, according to a news release shared by the institutions involved in the grant.
Students will receive a $30,000 a year stipend to cover living expense as they complete graduate-level coursework, internships and student-teaching in the schools.
After graduation, they will commit to teach for at least three years in a high-need school while receiving professional development and support. The school district will work with the Wake, WSSU and Salem to identify the high-need schools.
Recruitment will begin this fall, and eligible candidates must hold an undergraduate degree with an earned GPA of 3.0 or higher and a desire to enter the teaching profession. The first cohort will officially begin next June with about 30 graduate students.
Cynthia Williams Brown, WSSU’s interim associate dean of education, said that WSSU, which is administering the grant, will receive $713,003 in the first year of the five-year grant.
After completing the program, the participants will receive a master’s degree in teaching, Brown said.
“Our program (will) produce highly qualified teachers,” she said.
The graduate students will spend extended time in the schools in the fall semester, then student-teach in the spring, said Alan Brown, the department chair of education at Wake Forest University. The students will also be working with a mentor from their designated school.
Kate Allman, a co-director of research and assessment for the Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest, said the new program may attract students interested in teaching who don’t want to go into debt.
“This is a way to incentivize those interested in teaching. We’ll give you a living stipend as a way to say we want to support you so you’re not coming off this program in debt, but you’re able to thrive and join this community of support,” Allman said.
Summer McGee, the president of Salem College, also praised the program.
“This is a wonderful example of what cross-institutional collaborations we can create to support the needs of our Winston-Salem community and beyond,” she said in a statement.
Journal reporter John Hinton contributed to this story.