UNLV program helps fast track dozens of support staff into teaching positions at CCSD
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - New funding opened a program at UNLV last year to attempt to make a dent in the teaching shortage at the Clark County School District. The first cohort graduated from the Professional Pathways Project this summer and are now teachers at the school district.
Maria Romero was among the 36 graduates of the program and is now a first grade teacher at Harris Elementary School.
She taught employability skills at Las Vegas high schools for years and wanted to be a teacher for a long time. However, that process takes money and time that she didn’t have working a full time job and caring for her autistic son.
“It was a lot of work,” Romero said. “Work in the morning, then do your work in the afternoon, Saturday and Sunday. I think it’s worth it, because it’s an opportunity I couldn’t have anywhere else.”
In just one year the paraprofessionals received their teaching credential. They logged the same number of hours as a regular teaching program but in a shorter amount of time.
Romero received her in-classroom experience at Harris Elementary last semester and was offered a job before the school year ended. She said other principals reached out to her too.
“Every single one of us received at least seven or eight offers,” Romero said.
“PPP creates a more stable teaching force that not only fills up the shortage but does so in a way that doesn’t impact kids with constant new teachers turning over. These are adults the kids are familiar with and they’re familiar with the schools,” program director Kenny Varner said.
Another 65 paraprofessionals will graduate in January, which means another batch of qualified teachers will be ready for next school year.
“We can address the teacher shortage, and we’re hoping we can show legislature, state department of education and school districts that this program will not only help them with the shortage but bring teachers in that are better than well qualified,” Varner said.
The grant only runs through 2024. The final cohort will start classes June of next year.
Varner said they’re hoping to get an extension to keep the program going and funnel more paraprofessionals, like Romero, into teaching jobs at CCSD.
The program is also now open to those with a bachelor’s degree in a different field that want to transition into teaching.
Registration will open for the next cohort of paraprofessionals in the fall.
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