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School of Education participating in Grow Your Own Pathway to Teaching program

ISSUED: 21 September 2022

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Six high school students from Jefferson County Schools are getting a head start on their dream of becoming teachers, thanks to a pilot program called Grow Your Own Pathway to Teaching through the West Virginia Department of Education. The six are taking dual enrollment classes at Shepherd University, including some education courses, for which they earn both high school and college credits.

Jefferson County high school students in the Grow Your Own program posing in front Knutti Hall.The Grow Your Own Pathway to Teaching program pairs higher education institutions with county school systems to help high school students who are interested in pursuing education careers potentially graduate a from college in three years. The Grow Your Own Pathway program’s goal is to address the state’s critical teacher shortage.

“It used to be the main fields we had teacher shortages in were math and science, but now we have them all fields,” said Dr. Dori Hargrove, director, Shepherd School of Education. “We need people who have a passion for teaching and who want to give back to the community.”

Like most school systems across the state, Jefferson County struggles to find qualified teachers to fill its classrooms.

“Currently, Jefferson County is experiencing a shortage of certified teachers,” said Samantha Viands, Jefferson County Schools certification and recruitment coordinator. “We have an excess of 75 positions currently filled by permanent substitutes.”

Viands is excited that Jefferson County is one of 29 counties in West Virginia participating in the program.

“Two of our biggest recruitment tools are our community and our location,” Viands said. “The Grow Your Own program builds up this by growing teachers from our community.”

Under the program, students in their junior or senior year of high school can begin taking Advanced Placement and/or dual enrollment courses that would meet the requirements for a degree in teaching. The program requires students to take a minimum of 24 credits. Twelve of those credits are core curriculum classes, and 12 are foundational education courses.

“If a student starts in their junior year, by the time they graduate high school, they would have at least 20 credits. Some would have up to 30 credits and be able to enroll as a sophomore at a university,” Hargrove said. “Candidates receive continuous coaching and mentoring. Research suggests it’s that coaching and mentoring that’s essential to retaining the candidates even after they graduate.”

In addition, the Grow Your Own program covers the cost of tuition for the required education classes and the cost of the Praxis test, which students are required to pass for teacher certification. It also gives students classroom experience before graduating from high school, and once they are seniors in college, they are eligible to be paid during their student teaching experience.

“It’s a great program,” said Barbara Kandalis, Shepherd’s coordinator for dual enrollment. “West Virginia definitely needs more teachers, and it encourages them to stay within the state.”

Kandalis said the Grow Your Own program gives students the opportunity to determine if they want to pursue a career in education before enrolling in college.

“Taking a couple of education courses and getting your feet wet can open your eyes to whether you really want to be a teacher,” Kandalis said. “The dual enrollment program is very conducive to doing that no matter what career a student is interested in.”

Listen to Dr. Dori Hargrove and Barbara Kandalis here.

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