WSU Tri-Cities signs second cohort of future educators and welcomes new district partners

By Lacey Desserault

Thanks to a collaborative effort between local school districts and Washington State University Tri-Cities, a new group of future teachers will start their education and be ready to fill positions faster than before. Welcoming its second cohort, the Teaching Bridge Program signed 24 graduating high school students to earn degrees in education at WSU Tri-Cities while working as part-time paraeducators in local schools.

Four school districts in Benton and Franklin counties hosted signing ceremonies this spring as a physical representation of the students’ commitment to the program and recognition of their accomplishments:

  • April 24: Prosser School District, 2 students
  • May 14: Richland School District, 3 students
  • May 15: Pasco School District, 5 students
  • May 23: Kennewick School District, 14 students

The Teaching Bridge Program is a partnership with school districts that accelerates career development by eliminating the two-year gap between high school graduation and entering the teacher preparation program in the WSU Tri-Cities College of Education. Each student receives support through application and financial aid processes and participates in a paid cooperative internship at a local school, gaining valuable hands-on experience in a classroom.

“The Teaching Bridge is an important program for both WSU Tri-Cities and our community,” said Judith Morrison, academic director of the College of Education at WSU Tri-Cities. “Students are often working in districts from which they graduated, and this knowledge benefits them as they go through the program. Ultimately, this results in stronger teachers who will know the community’s students and schools.”

After signing 12 students in its first cohort in 2023 solely from the Kennewick School District, the Teaching Bridge program has nearly tripled in the last year, expanding to include students from Richland, Pasco, and Prosser School Districts.

“We have seen tremendous growth in our program and the students we serve,” said Danica Garcia, program coordinator of the Teaching Bridge program. “Over the past year, students have logged over 3,000 hours working in high-need areas while completing full-time pre-education coursework, providing them with opportunities to learn about school operations and interest areas for future K-8 teaching, while receiving mentorship from the school districts and WSU. It has been a privilege to watch them grow as college students and young professionals.”

Haley Nelson, an education student at WSU Tri-Cities, was part of the first Teaching Bridge cohort in 2023 and is now an intern at Westgate Elementary School in Kennewick, working alongside students with autism in kindergarten through fifth grades.

“I have really been enjoying my internship. I especially love working with the kindergarten students and gaining hands-on experience in the classroom,” she said.

The Teaching Bridge Program is part of the Career Connect Washington network, creating integrated work-based and academic programs that enable young people to explore and prepare for college and careers. It also integrates principles from the Grow Your Own initiative, offering highly collaborative and community-rooted support in recruiting, developing, placing, and retaining diverse educators.