Area teacher hopefuls — both teenage students and adults looking for a more permanent career change — moved between eight high school and college seminars at Garden City High School’s college fair Wednesday night, taking note of different pathways that would allow them to become certified teachers, potentially without leaving town.

The college fair, aimed at those interested in careers in teaching, was the first of its kind at Garden City USD 457, one of many attempted remedies to up the district’s teacher recruitment and ease the local impacts of an ongoing, nationwide teacher shortage.

Aimed largely at three demographics — high school students looking to pursue a fairly traditional higher education in teaching, paraprofessionals and substitutes wishing to become fully certified and adults with bachelor’s or associate’s degrees looking for a career change — the fair offered informational sessions from representatives from Garden City Community College, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Newman University, the University of Nebraska-Kearny and Wichita State University, as well as the GCHS “Grow Your Own” program.

Attendees had time to sit in on four 20-25 minute sessions. Throughout the night, besides offering information on their program, the Department of Teacher Education at FHSU gave out six $250 scholarships through a drawing, offering a handful of prospective students a leg up should they choose to pursue their teaching degree through FHSU, said Chris Jochum, the department's chair.

Through an early elementary education pathway, dual credit courses and other resources, GCHS has been attempting to commit students to local teaching careers through its “Grow Your Own” program, said Heath Hogan, USD 457 deputy superintendent. By promoting that and other programs, the fair attempted to get more local people interested in education, especially in Garden City, he said.

If the high school’s program encouraged 10 to 15 GCHS students a year to seek out teaching careers, Hogan said it could be an effective long-term solution to the district’s teacher shortages. The university programs for working adults could be a more immediate fix.

“We don’t have the luxury of having a college here locally, so the universities have been great about trying to create different opportunities and pathways for people that don’t look like the traditional model that some go into … People have chosen to live here and want to stay here — how do we get them into education? And that will help us ... offset those shortages that we have in different areas,” Hogan said.

About 50 attendees from Garden City, Holcomb, Scott City and Ulysses attended the fair, gauging different pathways that may best fit their needs.

Emporia State and KSU offer online master’s programs in education for those holding bachelor’s degrees in other fields, and WSU’s Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP) allows students to work as paraprofessional educators while earning a bachelor’s in education online. UNK and FHSU offer traditional and online pathways for education degrees and certification. Newman, which has locations in Garden City and Dodge City, offers education degrees via in-person night classes aimed at students who hold an associate’s degree.

The pathways’ lengths vary from four-year bachelor’s programs to Newman’s 16-month and KSU’s 12-month programs.

Garden City Community College could also be an easily accessible and affordable start for students and professionals pursuing careers in education, said the college’s representative Holly Chandler. Credits are easily transferable to four-year universities, and several schools offer students the chance to complete the last half of their bachelor’s online, she said.

The college and USD 457 are discussing a partnership that would allow district paraprofessionals to complete a three-year teaching track at GCCC, student teach at USD 457 through a four-year university and then continue to work at the district once certified.

Several attendees at the fair were hoping to change careers to become teachers. Local medical professionals Jennifer Holguin and Yesenia Gomez and optician Maricela Janas were considering the face-to-face classes through Newman University, interested in the opportunity to quickly become certified in town while still working at their current jobs.

New USD 457 substitute, former farmer and husband of a USD 457 teacher Dirk Shrimplin said he was sold on the KSU online master’s program, which best served his schedule as a father of young children.

Once they finished their respective programs, they all said they hoped to teach in Garden City.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.