To help address the teacher shortage, NKU has created a new pathway for adults to get certification

By Andy Furman
NKyTribune reporter

In one word – they are all committed. You can add inspiring, warm, and, of course caring. We’re talking teachers. And, in and around Northern Kentucky – as well as the Commonwealth, well, we need more. Yes, there’s a shortage.

Eileen Shanahan, Ph.D. and Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Teacher Preparation and Educational Studios at Northern Kentucky University is trying her best to fill that void.

NKU’s Dr. Eileen Shanahan and Melissa Hess, program coordinator. (Photo by Andy Furman/NKyTribune)

“In the summer of 2023,” she told the Covington Rotary Club Tuesday at the Radisson Hotel, “The College of Education launched a new pathway for adult learners to get a degree in Elementary Education.”

This was in response to the Option 9 regulation approved by the state of Kentucky to help address the teacher shortage, she said.

“The regulation, and our program, is specifically for paraeducators in our region to provide a pathway towards a degree and to teacher certification,” Dr. Shanahan said.

There are numerous routes to initial teacher certification in Kentucky that include traditional and nontraditional pathways. The Kentucky General Assembly, under KRS 161.048 has enacted alternative routes to teacher and administrator certification for persons who have demonstrated exceptional work and/or educational experiences.

There are eight options for alternative teacher certification under state statute.

Option 1: Exceptional Work Experience:

Candidates with exceptional, non-teaching work experience in an academic content area, who have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with a 2.75 GPA, may be eligible for this pathway.

Option 2: Local District Training:

Certification may be attained through an approved local program conducted by a local school district or group of school districts. Candidates must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, 2.75 GPA, a passing score on the academic content assessment in the area in which certification is being sought and an offer of employment.

Option 3: College Faculty:

Candidates who have a minimum of a master’s degree in an academic content area and have at least five years of full-time teaching experience in the content area at the college level may be eligible for certification for the specific content under this route.

Option 4: Adjunct Instructor:

The Adjunct Instructor Certification does not lead to professional certification in Kentucky; however, it does allow those who have expertise and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with a major or minor in an academic content area and meet other qualifications to teach part-time on a contract basis.

Option 5: Armed Forces Veteran:

A pathway to certification for veterans with at least six years of eligible military service and an honorable discharge who have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in an academic content area and a GPA of at least 2.75.

Dr. Shanahan speaks to Covington Rotary about paraeducators program at NKU. (Photo by Andy Furman/NKyTribune)

Option 6: University-Based Alternative Route:

Individuals who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a non-teaching major interested in attaining initial teacher certification; meet university admission requirements and a GPA of at least 2.75.

Option 7: Institute Alternative Route:

In this option, candidates complete training through an approved institute that addresses multiple research-based teaching strategies and practices. Candidates with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in an academic content area, 2.75 GPA, a passing score on the GRTE or Core Academic Skills for Educators assessment, and a passing score ion the Praxis II academic content assessment in the areas in which certification is being sought may be eligible for this pathway.

Option 8: Teach for America (TFA):

A national non-profit organization that recruits, trains and supports outstanding recent college graduates for career placement t in participating a school district within the Appalachian Region of Kentucky.

And according to Dr. Shanahan, “Northern Kentucky University candidates in the Pathways for Paraeducators Program, can expect to complete the bachelor’s degree program in three years, including summers, while also keeping their jobs as paraprofessionals.

“They will take their courses on line,” she said, “In the evenings, and during the summer.”

The NKU program, she notes, is a first-of-its-kind opportunity for paraeducators, who in years past, would have had to quit their full-time jobs – thereby also foregoing health benefits that many families rely on – to complete their culminating their experience.

“Through our program,” she said, “They can keep their jobs, while also pursuing a degree.”

In fact, she notes there are 18 people in the first cohort, 13 of whom are bringing transfer credits of some kind, but none of them have a bachelor’s degree. Each semester, they are enrolled in one or two face-to-face or hybrid courses with the remainder of them being online.

“From a school district perspective, districts hope the program will be a hiring and retention tool not just for teachers, but for paraeducators, too, since the program allows paraeducators to pursue new career paths,” she said.

Teachers not only listen, but also coach and mentor students. They are able to help shape academic goals and are dedicated to getting their students to achieve them.

Teachers have patience for their students and are understanding when a concept isn’t taking.

And a great teacher has his or her own love of learning and inspires students with his or her passion for education and for the course material.

The NKU Pathways for Paraeducators simply provides a pathway for paraeducators to become certified teachers.

“We create opportunities for them,” Dr., Shanahan said.

And, at the same time, fill a very important need.

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