Alternative Route

College of Education

Make the Leap from Parapro to Teacher

The Alternative Route program at WSU Tri-Cities recognizes the expertise that paraprofessionals bring with them from the classroom and works with them to apply those skills in the university.

As a PESB-approved teacher preparation program, the WSU Tri-Cities College of Education and our district partners have developed a Route 1 alternative route teacher certification program. This program is designed for paraeducators currently working in our local partner school districts, with an emphasis on “grow your own” teacher development strategies that address districts’ staffing needs.

The program provides support for paraeducators to receive credit for their prior learning and work experiences, enroll in university courses, and receive an Elementary Education BA degree with K-8 endorsement and either a Special Education or ELL/Bilingual Education add-on endorsement.

The Alternative Route to Teacher Certification is offered in partnership with Grandview, Kennewick, Pasco, Prosser, Richland, Sunnyside, Wahluke, and Walla Walla school districts.

We are currently taking applications to join our next cohort in May 2024.  The deadline to apply to the program is March 11, 2024.  Prospective students should complete the following by March 11. To inquire about applying after March 11, please email

  • Apply for admission to WSU Tri-Cities
  • Apply for admission to the Alternative Route program. Click here to download the 2024 application.
  • Take or have taken a basic skills test (e.g. ACT, SAT, or WEST-B) and have official scores reported to WSU.  All candidates must have attempted one of these exams in order to be considered. Click here for the Passing Scores and more information.

Program prerequisites ensure that candidates are ready to apply subject knowledge to their education courses.

NOTE: A minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA is required.  All program prerequisite courses must be passed with a grade of ‘C’ or higher.

Students in the alternate route program earn academic credit through in-person evening courses with university faculty, courses situated in students’ jobs in area schools, and Prior Learning Assessments that let students how how they have met Washington’s teacher competencies through prior education or work experiences.

The program has been designed for students to complete coursework and become certified teachers in two years.

Each participant receives specialized advising and support from the grant coordinator. Beyond planning classes, you will learn about navigating campus policies and procedures, learn about mentoring in your school work site, and learn how to prepare for exams such as the NES and West-E.

photo of Lindsay Lightner
Lindsay LightnerAssistant Professor (Career Track)Floyd 207M(509) 372-7366

Applicants may be eligible for financial aid that recruits teachers for high-need areas.  These funds may include conditional loan scholarships from the State of Washington, the federal TEACH Grants, and WSU grant programs.  Students may still complete the alternative route program even if they do not receive these funds.

Sample costs of attendance including tuition and fees can be found here.

Many of our students have had their tuition paid by grants and financial aid.  All students are highly encouraged to apply for WSU scholarships and complete the Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA).

As condition of the Washington State Alternative Route grant program, candidates who receive an Alternative Route Block Grant from the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB)  are required to teach for two years in a Washington K-12 public school, in a high-need endorsement area, in exchange for each year of funding received from PESB.

Our school district partners work with candidates to find mutually beneficial placements. The Career Development Office offers workshops on how to develop a job search strategy, write a compelling résumé and cover letter, and sharpen interview skills – all of which will help students land a job in today’s competitive market.

See how you can become career-ready with a major in Elementary Education.

You will take courses from a range of faculty members in elementary education and in  your specialization area. All faculty are dedicated to integrating your work-based experiences with your university courses.

Feel free to contact a lead faculty member if you have specific questions about your current coursework.

Judy Morrison
Judy MorrisonProfessor and Academic Director of Education; Associate Vice Chancellor for ResearchFloyd 207U
Eric Johnson
Eric JohnsonProfessor, Teaching & LearningFloyd 207W
Yun-Ju Hsiao
Yun-Ju HsiaoAssociate Professor, Special EducationFloyd 207L
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