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School system, Catawba College form partnership to help lateral-entry teachers

SALISBURY — A new partnership between Catawba College and Rowan-Salisbury Schools could give some teachers a much-needed break.

The program targets lateral-entry teachers, a class of educators who enter the classroom from the workforce or another career background and who typically earn certification as they go. The partnership with Catawba would help these teachers work their way toward certifications at a discount and closer to home.

Kristi Rhone, human resources director for the school system, said not just anyone can become a lateral-entry teacher.

“When they come to us, they are content knowledgeable,” she said.

“Our lateral-entry teachers are highly educated individuals who have decided to make a career change to teaching. They are held to the same academic standards as our regularly licensed teachers, and they also bring valuable life experience in their content areas to the table as well,” said teacher recruiter Jeanie McDowell.

Lateral-entry teachers often have extensive subject knowledge or work experience in a related field; they’re just lacking the nuts and bolts of teaching theory.

“So what we wanted to do was prepare them more,” Rhone said.

Leslie Holmes, classified specialist with the school system, said all lateral-entry teachers work on a course of study at an accredited college or university to ensure they earn certification within a reasonable time period.

In the meantime, the teachers work with a mentor at their school and receive lots of in-building support.

“It’s kind of like on-the-job training. … We make it difficult for them to fail, but they do come in with some challenges,” said Susan Heaggans, director of ILT.

But there are challenges. Earning a teaching certification is often expensive and inconvenient. According to Eisa Cox, director of secondary education, taking classes to earn certification can cost as much as $30,000. And classes may be on various college campuses, making it difficult to get there and back after a full day’s work.

After hearing about the struggles numerous lateral-entry teachers have gone through, Holmes reached out to Catawba, which the district has a long-standing relationship with.

“So from that request, this initiative began,” Rhone said.

The new program would offer eight-week courses taught by Catawba professors to any Rowan-Salisbury lateral-entry teacher who might need them.

While all lateral-entry teachers have different education needs to get them up to snuff, the district has identified five key topics that most need: learning theory, instructional methods, exceptional children, human growth and development, and literacy.

“So we’ve decided to offer as many of those classes as we can to try to reach as many teachers as we can,” Cox said.

The short courses will be held in Salisbury — likely at the Wallace Educational Forum — and will be offered at a steep discount. According to Cox, participating teachers would receive a $930 scholarship per course, leaving them with about $150 to pay out of pocket.

“So we are looking at a significant savings,” she said.

It’s likely, however, that many lateral-entry teachers would need to complete certification either through Catawba or another institution, as more coursework may be required.

The program begins in March and will offer just one or two courses at a time, running through December. After that, the partnership’s continuation will be determined by interest and need.

Currently, Rowan-Salisbury Schools has about 170 lateral-entry teachers and roughly 1,400 certified teachers.

Two information sessions will be held for district lateral-entry teachers. Rhone said an email flier with times and details was sent to all lateral-entry teachers.

So far, the feedback has been good.

“For the most part, all of them were excited because this was something they were looking for,” Rhone said.

For more information about the sessions or lateral-entry teaching, contact Rowan-Salisbury Schools at 704-636-7500.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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