School districts to use grants to develop homegrown teachers

Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 1/14/22

School districts in Warren County are taking advantage of a grant program that promotes the development of new staff members from within each district. Warren County R-III and Wright City R-II are …

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School districts to use grants to develop homegrown teachers

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School districts in Warren County are taking advantage of a grant program that promotes the development of new staff members from within each district. Warren County R-III and Wright City R-II are taking different approaches to this idea, with similar end points in focus.

The Grow Your Own grant provides $10,000 for a district to use toward partnerships and programs that recruit and develop staff members.

R-III will be using those funds to help existing paraprofessional staff complete their special education teaching degrees in-house, through a partnership with Missouri State University.

“If they have finished their associate degree they can finish up their last two years for free,” said Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith. “They would graduate with an undergraduate degree and certification in special education.”

Through the program, participants will have their work as paraprofessionals count as an apprenticeship. On Mondays, when classes are not in session, they will take classes virtually or taught by district teachers who have attained master’s degrees.

“One of the benefits of having a four-day week is it gives the opportunity for paraprofessionals to attend their own classes on Mondays,” said Klinginsmith. “We have several teachers with the necessary master’s-level degree, and they will be teaching the in-person courses from their respective classrooms on campus.”

Klinginsmith said there are about 10 staff who initially expressed interest in the program, with four having completed the paperwork to participate.

“If it helps us retain and attract paras, that’s an area where we always have a shortage,” said Klinginsmith. “We need more paras, and if this is an avenue that can help we’ll continue to do this. We’d hope two years of free college would be something that would entice them to come work for us.”

He noted that if a student attends community college through the A+ program and then goes through the grant-funded training from Missouri State, they could potentially earn a teaching degree with zero college debt.

The grant will last two years, after which district leaders will evaluate the results and determine if they would like to continue by funding the program in-house.

Wright City R-II is using the funds to expand upon its Future Teachers of America student group, providing a sponsorship stipend and paying for the group’s activities. The group helps introduce students to the possibilities of a teaching career.

“Hopefully we can spark the interest of our kids that want to go into education,” said R-II Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger. “Also, that’s an effort to help the state and even nationwide teacher shortage. We like that idea.”

In addition, R-II will add up to four days prior to the start of the school year to help new teachers transition and prepare for the potential rigors of the job.

“The toughest time for a teacher can be that first year,” said Berger. “They’re just overwhelmed. What we want to do is work with them on mentally preparing for that, along with preparing them for some of the things involved with classroom management. We’d like to put that into effect and see if that will help.”

R-II took the Missouri State University partnership into consideration, but did not get resounding interest from staff.
“We were familiar with the program,” said Berger. “We just didn't have any identified paras who aspired to be teachers. We’re going to leave that on the table to see if a cohort forms and there is an interest in the future.”

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