Kennewick School District Tag

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

PULLMAN, Wash. – Thanks to a state grant, Washington State University is providing greater access for paraprofessionals to become state-certified teachers.

The grant comes from the state’s Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB), which is responsible for oversight of the state’s teacher preparation, certification and continuing education. While there is a traditional route to becoming a teacher, such as through the College of Education’s teacher preparation program, PESB also has four alternative routes.

The award is for $140,000 at WSU Tri-Cities and is giving paraprofessionals in the area an alternative route to becoming certified teachers. It’s a second grant award to this project, which was successfully implemented two years ago. It’s been especially important in high-needs areas where teaching shortages have been prevalent, such as bilingual education, English Language Learner and special education. Additionally, there are some geographic areas of the state that have struggled to recruit and retain teachers. The Tri-Cities area is one of them.

Using past experience toward certification

For paraprofessionals, there’s a common denominator in what they lack to become state-certified teachers: course work and theory.

In a traditional teacher preparation program, the college students complete their course work, which includes vast amounts of theory in teaching practice, curriculum, classroom management and cultural-responsiveness. They are then placed in a school for practicum and student teaching.

These paraprofessionals already have varying experiences in the classroom, including instruction with small groups of students. However, they don’t have the theoretical background that students with traditional training have.

Lindsay Lightner, coordinator of the Tri-Cities alternative route project, said their project helps resolve that issue.

“A project such as ours gives them the opportunity to take classes and get that theoretical background,” Lightner said. “It’s been beneficial for paraprofessionals to understand why they have been doing X, Y and Z in the classroom.”

Many paraprofessionals have taken some college classes, including teacher preparation classes, but weren’t able to continue and get the full state certification.

“This program has been nice for those who haven’t been able to make that jump toward being a teacher yet,” Lightner said. “It gives them that little boost to make it past the finish line.”

No placement needed

Many paraprofessionals don’t require placement into a teacher preparation program, since they’re already in their home communities.

“We don’t have to go out and recruit people to move to the area,” Lightner said, “instead we’re helping those who already have roots in the schools to progress toward state-approved certification.”

By promoting paraprofessionals to teachers, Tri-Cities project co-director Judy Morrison said, it has made things easier on those districts.

“The districts have had to do less recruiting to try and find certified teachers,” she said.

But there’s one component that might be more important — relationships.

Traditionally, once preservice teachers finish with their teacher preparation program and student teaching, the interaction between the program and the school districts end.

“This has really strengthened our partnerships with multiple school districts,” Morrison said. “The way the grant is set up, not only do we get money to support the project, but districts get money, as well. We depend on their support in the schools, which has led to really important conversations, and has led to stronger relationships and stronger partnerships.”

 

 

Media Contact:

  • Brandon Chapman, communications director, College of Education, 509-335-6850, b.chapman@wsu.edu

RICHLAND, Wash. – David Isley, a recent Washington State University Tri-Cities alumnus (education, ‘17), received a rare opportunity in his beginnings as a teacher this year — the opportunity to student teach with his own first-grade teacher.

Janelle Rehberg (right) and David Isley

Janelle Rehberg (right) and David Isley

At WSU Tri-Cities, students are required to complete a number of volunteer hours in a classroom setting before being admitted into the undergraduate education degree program. Isley decided to seek out his own first-grade teacher, Janelle Rehberg, to complete his volunteer work at Cottonwood Elementary School. After the experience, Rehberg invited Isley to complete his student teaching in her classroom during his senior year at WSU Tri-Cities.

“We hit it off right away, although it did take him a long time to get him to call me Janelle, instead of Mrs. Rehberg,” she said with a laugh. “David is a natural in the classroom. He’s great with the kids and it’s obvious that he loves teaching.”

Rehberg said she has never heard of another teacher and former student working together years later as a mentor and mentee in student teaching.

“It really is rare, but that made it all the more special,” she said.

From student to teacher

As a first-grade student, Rehberg said she never imagined Isley would become a teacher. Isley was an outgoing, passionate young student who had a passion for science and dinosaurs, she said.

“I would have thought he’d go on to be a scientist,” she said.

Isley said even to this day, he still thinks dinosaurs are the greatest, but instead of studying their history as a career, he plans on using them to educate a new generation of students.

“I’m excited to introduce them to my own students,” he said. “I do plan to feature dinosaurs in some of my lessons.”

Since his own days as first-grade student, Isley said the grade level has seen a lot of changes. For one, technology has advanced rapidly, and students use iPads, advanced computers and more to complete their work, innovate and create, he said. Rehberg said students are also expected to know a lot more.

“When I was in the first-grade, we learned the alphabet,” Rehberg said. “Now, that is usually learned in Preschool before they get to kindergarten. From the public’s point of view, I’m not sure people realize the amazing achievements of young little kids these days. Every generation seems to move along more rapidly than the previous one. The reading performance of today’s first graders is impressive.”

Isley said he’s up to the challenge for educating the talented youngsters.

“I’m excited to jump in and work with these amazing kids,” he said. “One of the best things I’ve learned from Janelle is that you have to know your kids and meet them where they are. That’s something I plan to use in my own career as a teacher. That, and you have to make learning fun.”

Foundational learning for use in the real-world

Isley said he appreciates that WSU Tri-Cities requires so much real-world work in the classroom, as that’s the business that teachers are in – working with children and inspiring in them a passion for knowledge.

“Being able to apply what I’ve learned through my professors and textbooks at WSU to the real-world setting in the elementary school classrooms is invaluable,” he said. Rehberg agreed.

“You don’t learn nearly as much as when you are right here in the trenches,” she said. “That first-hand experience is the best.”

Looking toward the future, Isley said he plans to take what he learned through both his coursework and professors at WSU Tri-Cities, and what he learned from Rehberg, to educate a whole new generation of students.

Isley recently accepted a kindergarten teaching position at Washington Elementary School in the Kennewick School District. He’ll also have a piece of Rehberg in his future classroom to remember his student teaching experience with his first-grade teacher, mentor and now colleague. Rehberg said she made a giant sculpted dinosaur for a class project and plans to give it to David to hang in his future classroom.

“It really has all come full-circle,” Isley said.

Rehberg said she’ll miss Isley teaching alongside in her classroom, but that she’s excited for his future.

“Since I had David in my classroom, I’ve missed him terribly,” she said. “I loved having David student teach in my class. But I know he’ll be successful wherever he goes.”