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  • Writer's pictureReach University

USA Today: To solve teacher shortages, schools turn to custodians, bus drivers and aides

MORGAN CITY, La. – "Jenna Gros jangles as she walks the halls of Wyandotte Elementary School in St Mary’s Parish, Louisiana. The dozens of keys she carries while she sweeps, sprays, shelves and sorts make a loud sound, and when children hear her coming, they call out, “Miss Jenna!”

Gros is head custodian at Wyandotte, in this small town in southern Louisiana. She’s also a teacher-in-training," writes Kavitha Cardoza in The Hechinger Report & USA Today.

With a growing number of states utilizing teacher apprenticeships to address their teacher shortages, Reach University's on-the-job teacher training is enabling those in non-traditional roles, such as bus driver, custodial, and food services, to train to become qualified and specialized teachers.

We have overlooked a talent pool to our detriment,” said Joe Ross, president of the online Reach University. “These people have heart and they have the grit and they have the intelligence. There's a piece of paper standing in the way.”

Excerpts include:

Ross, of Reach University, said he often hears some variation of: “I had to choose between a job and a degree.” “What if we eliminate the question?” he said. “Let's turn jobs into degrees.”
When [teacher candidate Jacquelyne] Noble heard about Reach and the monthly tuition of $75 a month, she said, “My mouth hit the floor.”
In growing the Reach program, [Dean Kim] Eckert drew from her teacher-of-the-year class, hiring people who understood the realities of classroom management and could model what it’s like to be a great teacher. She shied away from those who haven’t proven themselves in the classroom, even if they have degrees from top universities. “Everybody thinks they can be a teacher because they've had a teacher,” she said, but that’s not true.
In Louisiana, Ross said he believes the organization could put a serious dent in the teacher vacancy numbers statewide. Some 84% of all parishes have signed on for Reach trainees, he said, and 650 teachers-in-training are enrolled. That amounts to more than a quarter of the teacher vacancy numbers statewide, 2,500.
She [teacher candidate Jenna Gros] said she loves how a teacher can shape a child’s future for the better. “That’s what a teacher is – a nurturer trying to provide them with the resources that they are going to need for later on in life."I think I can be that person,” she said. She pauses. “I know I can.”

Read the full story in USA Today here and The Hechinger Report here.

Reach University teacher candidate, Jenna Gros, featured here with her students. Gros, like all Reach teacher candidates, spends 15 hours a week in the classroom as she works towards her bachelor's degree and teacher certification. Photo credit: Kavitha Cardoza, The Hechinger Report

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