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Teacher Shortage: WDE optimizes apprenticeship for people with High School Diplomas and Associate Degrees

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Wyoming Department of Education
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In an effort to address the shortage of teachers in Wyoming, the Wyoming Department of Education is set to roll out an apprenticeship program for people with High School Diplomas and Associate Degrees, which potentially would allow them to teach in Wyoming schools. The new partnership will allow people with these credentials to work in schools under the supervision and guidance of mentor teachers while studying for their education degrees. The plan was put together by the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE), in partnership with the Professional Teaching Standards Board, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Linda Finnerty, Communications Director of the Wyoming Department of Education, said teaching standards will not be affected by the new program.

“They still will end up going through all the coursework, and graduate with a full bachelor;’s degree,” she said. “But they’ll be taking the courses while they’re working and getting on-the-job training. So the standards had to be put in place and identified in advance to make sure that they did meet that criteria; because then they would move forward to become licensed with the professional teaching standards board, as any other teacher does.”

Finnerty said that it is not a new path, it was simply an optimization of existing pathways to the teaching profession so that schools in the state would not lose teachers that they already have.

“We didn’t create a different path, We just combined some activities that currently tend to take place end-on-end. You might complete your coursework, and then start your on-the-job training in the school, we’re combining those,” Finnerty said. “And then finding ways to fund the coursework, as well as they’ll be paid during the time that they are working. It’ll take a bit of time to see those teachers be fully licensed. But they’ll be able to be working in the schools, so the school don’t lose that support that they need as well. It’s kind of a win-win.”

The new partnership requires the teacher apprentice to spend at least three years in a classroom under the guidance of an experienced teacher mentor. Apprentices must also demonstrate a series of on-the-job competencies before exiting the program. From next semester, plans for the new initiative will be tested in Laramie County School District 1, Teton County School District 1, and Fremont County School District 24. While the program will be extended to all the school districts from the 2023/2024 school year.

Friday Otuya is a graduate student of International Studies at UW. Within the last 5 years he has worked as a sports and tech journalist in Africa. He reported on electronic waste management in Lagos - Africa's largest megacity, the electoral process in Nigeria, the state of the trans-West African coastal highway, conservation, irregular migration, and other socioeconomic issues. Friday thrives on both radio and TV. He loves running, biking and is an avid lover of American history and the founding documents.
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