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New Opportunities for Teachers

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New Opportunities for Teachers

By Dr. Steven D. Herrington

Today in Sonoma County, we face two key challenges to providing our students the best education possible. These are, first, a statewide teacher shortage that is impacting local classrooms as districts struggle to find qualified teachers, and second, a need to update our teaching approaches and strategies to match our students’ learning needs for the 21st century. With these challenges comes an opportunity for innovation. 

Heading into this academic year, the California Department of Education estimated that districts around the state needed to fill 21,500 openings at the same time that less than 15,000 credentials are being issued. As County Superintendent of Schools, I saw it as my responsibility to recruit and secure the highest quality educational talent pool for Sonoma County School Districts.

To this end I made the goal of launching, in early 2016, a new North Coast School of Education. By the time it’s fully implemented in 2018, this school of education—located at SCOE and accredited through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) system—will offer the following: teacher intern programs that provide teaching candidates an alternative path to the classroom; teacher induction programs to support and coach first-time teachers; an administrative credential program; and designated subject programs including career technical education, adult education, and special subjects credentials.

I’m proud to say that, true to our goals, we have already launched a key component of the North Coast School of Education:  the “Be a Teacher” intern program, in partnership with Tulare County Office of Education. One cohort of 35 special education teaching candidates have already begun the coursework necessary to enable them to be hired as paid teacher interns by the fall. The program is designed to be flexible, affordable, and accommodating of the busy schedules of the young parent or working professional with a college degree, who might be looking to change jobs and become a teaching candidate. It’s also a way to meet the tremendous need for special education teachers in schools across our county. Similar programs for single and multiple subject (primary and secondary school) teacher interns have been submitted to the state and will be underway once approved.

I hope this new opportunity will appeal to those with real-world job experience who are looking to re-enter the workforce or change careers. This type of person is perfectly suited to incorporate their life experience into their teaching methodology and make the classroom more like the places that students will live and work for the rest of their lives. 

Yes, the need for instructors to fill our classrooms is great. But so is the opportunity to create a new generation of inspiring teachers, ones with real-world experience that -+equips them perfectly to help our students thrive in this new, exploratory age of learning.

Dr. Steven D. Herrington is Sonoma County’s Superintendent of Schools