Western Carolina takes part in effort to address teacher shortage in state

CULLOWHEE — A new program being offered by Western Carolina University beginning in the summer will enable working professionals from a variety of fields to rapidly change career paths and enter the teaching profession to help alleviate a statewide shortage of public school teachers.

NC TEACH (Teachers of Excellence for all Children) is designed to recruit, train, support and retain highly skilled mid-career professionals interested in becoming teachers. The statewide program, a joint effort between the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina, was unveiled by UNC system President Molly Broad in an August meeting of the Board of Governors held on Western’s campus.

Western is partnering with the University of North Carolina-Asheville, North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, and Western Regional Education Service Alliance to deliver the NC TEACH program in the western counties of North Carolina.

Rather than utilizing a traditional coursework approach, NC TEACH will employ a problems-based method focused on what teachers must know and be able to do to teach students to high standards in the context of real classrooms, said Michael Dougherty, dean of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions.

“NC TEACH allows WCU and its partners to make significant progress in helping to alleviate the shortage of teachers in several areas of middle school and secondary education,” Dougherty said. “NC TEACH provides a unique opportunity for those professionals who have a strong interest in becoming educators to make a career change and to make a difference.”

The program is not intended to replace traditional teacher education programs, but is designed to serve as an additional, high-quality lateral-entry teacher licensure program, he said. Preference will be given to applicants with appropriate academic backgrounds seeking licensure in the shortage areas of secondary mathematics or science; middle grades mathematics, science, language arts or social studies; and K-12 special education.

NC TEACH is the result of a 1998 bill passed by the legislature requiring the State Board of Education to develop a proposal for a statewide lateral-entry teacher licensure program. Among the bill’s stipulations were provisions for intensive summer pre-service preparation prior to the initial year of employment; coaching, support and continued professional preparation for licensure during the first and second years of employment; portfolio development and professional assessment; and intensive second-summer preparation for the teacher licensure examination.

“NC TEACH does this and more,” Dougherty said. “There are other lateral-entry programs, but NC TEACH is a first attempt to develop what might well be a statewide program in the future. The fact is that the State Board of Education and UNC Board of Governors were mandated to come up with a viable and quality lateral-entry program across the state, and they have done so.”

As of October 1999, there were approximately 700 vacant positions in N.C. public schools education, with the vast majority of these vacancies in classroom-teaching positions, Dougherty said. The vacancies, coupled with an annual teacher turnover rate in North Carolina topping 13 percent in 1998-99, make quality lateral-entry programs an important mechanism for providing teachers for the state’s public schools, he said.

“In reality, the teacher education programs in North Carolina are not going to be able to train an adequate number of teachers for North Carolina classrooms by traditional means,” Dougherty said. “Therefore, lateral entry programs such as NC TEACH will supplement, not compete with, traditional teacher education programs.”

During the initial year, the program will seek to enroll 300 participants statewide reflecting the ethnic, geographic and cultural diversity of the state. In subsequent years, with state support the program will seek to enroll 600 participants per year.

Delivery of the program will begin in Asheville this summer for residents of the western part of the state. Mary Jean Herzog, associate professor of education at WCU, will serve as site coordinator for the NC TEACH program in this area. Five other NC TEACH sites have been selected across the state.

For more information on NC TEACH, consult its website at http://ncteach.ga.unc.edu (link no longer active) or call (919) 962-4562. For more information about the western site, contact Mary Jean Herzog of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions, at (828) 227-7311.