Angelie Ross-Jimenez is 19 with an associate degree and a full-time job, and she has Wilmington University to thank for that.
The university created a self-developing teacher pipeline program to address the teacher shortage in Delaware.
Not only have teachers left classrooms because of COVID, but the state has 4,000 educators eligible to retire in the next five years.
Enrollment in teaching courses has fallen 67% since 2010, and some educators worry that high school students who have seen the chaos created by COVID in classrooms may turn away from careers in education.
Over the next 10 years, student enrollment in Delaware schools is expected to increase 7.8%, but public teachers are expected to increase only 6%.
Additionally, neighboring states are beginning to pay much higher salaries than Delaware, raising fears that teachers will leave the first state.
Education Secretary Mark Holodick has repeatedly pointed out during Wilmingington Collaborative Learning events that many teachers leave Delaware after five years.
The Delaware General Assembly has tried to help stem the tide by passing bills authorizing personal development programs, year-long teacher residencies for future educators, and periodic review of teachers’ starting salaries. Delaware teachers.
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Because of all of this, “we felt very strongly that as an educational institution, we wanted to help the state accelerate and increase the number of people going through the teacher preparation program,” said Rob Rescigno. , assistant vice president of partnerships and community. business in WilmU.
More than 50% of all educators in the First State earned some of their degrees at WilmU, and 11 of the state’s last 14 “Teacher of the Year” winners are alumni of one of WilmU’s programs. university education.
The student pipeline program began a year and a half ago with WilmU offering classes at Delaware high schools to help their education-interested students earn early college credit.
Now WilmU is approaching other districts to do the same.
Delaware already has more than 3,000 high school students enrolled in Teachers’ Academy course.
Now, WilmU is pushing its one-year residency program. This allows university students to be placed in a class with a mentor teacher for a year, effectively serving as a student teacher.
So far, 100% of students who have participated have been offered positions in Delaware. Upon completion of residency, WilmU will cut its tuition in half while earning a bachelor’s degree.
Rescigno said the college views these programs as part of a “teacher development continuum.”
They also have a WilmU Ambassador program. Students participating in this program serve as ambassadors within school districts, supporting teachers and assisting districts seeking to develop their own development programs.
Ross-Jimenez completed the Middletown High School Teacher Pathway Program in the Appoquinimink School District, a WilmU partner.
There, she was able to take classes and rack up credits in her senior year of high school that would count at WilmU.
The university also paid for a summer course to give her even more credits before starting her freshman year.
The Wilmington University program encourages participants to take the PRAXIS, which is a test teachers traditionally had to pass to be certified to teach. It is designed to measure the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the classroom.
The University offers workshops, seminars, and webinars to prepare students for the exam.
Ross-Jimenez passed and was rewarded with another 19 credits before even completing a semester at WilmU.
She then only needed three more courses to earn her associate, which she completed.
His next stop is Olive B. Loss Elementary School, where she will work full-time as a paraprofessional in special education, while she completes her courses for a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
She has about a year and a half left to complete, which she plans to do when she turns 20.
“I feel so valued and appreciated for my urgency to become a teacher and my passion for being nurtured, so I definitely plan to stay in Appo District,” she said. “I didn’t start at Olive B. Loss Again but I already feel welcomed and loved in this environment, so I don’t think I’ll be leaving anytime soon.
Ross-Jimenez isn’t the only Appo grad with a confirmed job.
Andrew Arot is 18 and has a full-time contract to teach Appo once he completes his four years at the University of Delaware. It starts in the fall.
Appo selects two students each year and offers full-time contracts as soon as they graduate from college.
Superintendent Matthew Burrows, mentor teachers, and other officials analyze student work, then choose one in the Early Education Pathway and one in the K-12 Education Pathway for a contract.
“It was such an amazing thing to be a part of,” Arot said. “This security, this assurance of knowing that I already have a job once I have finished my studies is so comforting. It makes me feel like I don’t have to worry about as much and all I have to do is graduate from college and then I’ll be a teacher.
Both Arot and Rescigno said pathways do not limit students’ ability to explore other subjects and interests.
Arot is pursuing a degree in applied mathematics and not in education or mathematics education so that he can have career flexibility if he ever wants to leave the classroom.
“From a former high school principal’s perspective, I would never force anyone to stay on a path,” Rescigno said. “If they come after second year and tell me their path is not for them, then I and other staff will find alternatives for the students.”
He said the pathways are more effective when districts are flexible and allow students to explore their interests at a young age.
“I use the example of a piece of fine Italian marble and a piece of fine Italian marble leather,” he said. “If you take a hammer and hammer this fine leather, nothing will happen and it will not be damaged. Now take the same hammer and strike the marble, and it shatters into pieces. It’s because it’s too rigid, and that’s what districts should avoid with their lanes.
Mike Trego, Appo’s supervisor for college and career readiness, said students have a lot more flexibility in these pathways than people realize.
“So the way our schedule is set up, they’ll take a minimum of 32 credits, and of those 32, only four are the path and like eight or more are elective credits,” Trego said, “so really , students have more opportunities to embark on other paths than there is for their own path.
WilmU’s teacher continuum ends with customizable master’s degree programs.
They offer 12 different areas of distinction. Teachers combine two of these areas, which dictates the courses in their master’s programs.
The 12 options are: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age, Diversity and Inclusion, Online Learning Design and Technology, ESOL Literacy, National Board Certification, Reading Specialist, STEM Education, Trauma and Resilience, Teaching and learning, special education. teachers of disabled students, ed. autism/severe intellectual disabilities and ed. early childhood/exceptional children.
A student could, for example, group “trauma and resilience” with “STEM education”, or “diversion and inclusion” with “reading specialist”, or one of 66 other possible combinations.
WilmU programs help students learn more about a career field, give them a head start in college, and help them find jobs and even master’s degrees faster than traditional programs, Trego said.
That includes students who want to be a school psychologist, counselor or administrator, he said.
“There are also plans to keep our students involved in the school district, through contract incentives and substitution opportunities,” he said. “Overall, we want to develop a passion for public service.”
Jarek Rutz can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz and on LinkedIn.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a BA in Journalism and a BA in Political Science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before to join Delaware LIVE News.