WSU Tri-Cities, KSD Teaching Bridge program signs first cohort of students for career-connected learning pathway

Seven high school seniors from the Kennewick School District (KSD) signed commitment letters to attend Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities to earn their teaching degree while also working part-time for the Kennewick School District as substitute paraeducators.  The Teaching Bridge program is the first program of its kind in the state that focuses on a partnership between a school district and a 4-year university to provide a career-connected learning pathway from high school to college for students interested in careers in education.

“The Kennewick School District and WSU Tri-Cities began working together over a year ago to make this program happen,” said Doug Christensen, associate superintendent of human resources for the Kennewick School District. “It has been very exciting to see the Teaching Bridge program take shape.”

“We are very excited about this partnership with Kennewick School District and are looking forward to extending the Teaching Bridge program to other school districts in our area,” said Judy Morrison, professor and academic director for the WSU Tri-Cities College of Education.

students sitting at a table signing

The first cohort of students in the Teaching Bridge program signed commitment letters in a signing ceremony on May 16.

The first students to enroll in the program come from three Kennewick high schools. The students from Kennewick High School are Nerissa Grimm, Seth Keller, and Lizzandra Ramirez. Lilly Johanson, Haley Nelson and Alvaro Rodriguez Jr., are from Southridge High School and Eva Arroyo is from Kamiakin High School.

Haley Nelson, a senior at Southridge High School, is very excited to be in the Teaching Bridge program. “The best part about this is the real-life experience I get before having to decide what I want to do. I can’t wait to be in a school as a para getting the experience.”

Officials and staff from both institutions, as well as students’ family and friends attended the ceremony.

Sandra Haynes, chancellor at WSU Tri-Cities welcomed the students to the university and complimented them on taking this important step toward their teaching career.

“Any day that I get to welcome students to the WSU Tri-Cities family is a great day,” she said. “Congratulations to each of you for taking this step and pushing yourselves to grow into a profession for which, no doubt, you have a great deal of passion.”

“I want to congratulate and recognize these students who will become the next generation of amazing educators,” stated Traci Pierce, superintendent of Kennewick School District. “Their stories exemplify our goal for our students to graduate well prepared from high school and ready for success in WSU’s Teaching Bridge Program. We can’t wait for them to return this fall to work with us.”

Students standing with certificates in front of KSD and WSU backdrops

The first cohort of students in the Teaching Bridge program display their certificates at a signing ceremony on May 16. Left to right: Traci Pierce, superintendent of Kennewick School District; Haley Nelson, Southridge High; Alvaro Rodriguez Jr, Southridge High; Lilly Johanson, Southridge High; Seth Keller, Kennewick High; Nerissa Grimm, Kennewick High; Eva Arroyo, Kamiakin High; and Sandra Haynes, chancellor of WSU Tri-Cities. Not pictured: Lizzandra Ramirez, Kennewick High.

Teaching Bridge provides the next step in a career development pathway by eliminating the two-year gap between high school graduation and entering the teacher preparation program in the WSU Tri-Cities College of Education. Students who participate in the program will:

  • Have support during the college application and financial aid process.
  • Gain early admission to WSU Tri-Cities.
  • Participate in paid cooperative internships in local school districts.
  • Learn as a cohort.
  • Access mentorship opportunities.
  • Get a jump start on teaching careers.

At the end of the two-year program, students are prepared to apply to the WSU Tri-Cities Bachelor of Arts in Education program to complete the requirements for Washington State certification in Elementary Education and an add-on endorsement in Special Education, English Language Learners, or Bilingual Education.

The partnership between WSU Tri-Cities and KSD allows participants to work 10-18 hours per week as paid part-time or substitute paraeducators while attending college classes full-time. Over the course of the program, students will spend approximately 600 hours at the employer site and complete 60 semester credit hours of undergraduate level coursework at WSU Tri-Cities.

Teaching Bridge is a Career Launch program featured through Career Connect Washington, a statewide, multi-sector approach to career connected learning that prepares students for high-demand, high wage jobs.

Jim Kindle, regional career connected learning coordinator with Education Services District 123 collaborated with WSU Tri-Cities and KSD by providing technical support and resources from Career Connect Washington.

“With the shortage of educators, the partnerships within this program will begin to close the gap to educator shortages and create a robust talent pipeline for the Kennewick School District,” said Kindle.

“This coming fall Kennewick seniors from all three comprehensive high schools will begin their journey to becoming teachers. These students will get a great education at WSU Tri-Cities while also gaining valuable classroom experience working as substitute para-educators in classrooms across our district. I look forward to watching these students advance through the Teaching Bridge program on their way to becoming future Kennewick teachers,” said Christensen.

Information about the Teaching Bridge program is available on the WSU Tri-Cities website or by contacting Danica Garcia, program coordinator at (509) 372-3766.