Southern Oregon Education Service District (SOESD) will be dispersing $120,350 obtained in partnership with higher education partners from the Oregon Department of Education Grow Your Own (GYO) Grant for Teacher Pathway Partnership programs that encourage the growth and sustainability of educators in Oregon. The Teacher Pathway Partnership programs are intended to help recruit and retain teachers from diverse populations, as well as create conditions where the diversity of student demographics is reflected by the teachers in Oregon’s schools.
Oregon Educator Equity Reports have revealed that all students benefit from having high-achieving teachers with cultural backgrounds similar to their own. Given the persistent lag between the proportion of culturally and linguistically diverse students and the teachers who teach them, increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce is a primary goal for school districts and teacher preparation programs throughout the state.
One of the ways in which the grant will be utilized is to support Southern Oregon Paraprofessional Pathways. The paraprofessional program offers opportunities for instructional assistants already working within schools to complete their teacher preparation program while maintaining their paid employment within the schools. Because the paraprofessional workforce more closely reflects the demographics of the K-12 student population, supporting and incentivizing their entry into teacher preparation provides an opportunity to quickly diversify the teacher workforce and leverage their rich lived experience, demonstrated commitment, and skills in relating to students. By ensuring all program coursework is available evenings, weekends, and online, while employing a co-teaching model to fulfil student teaching requirements, the pathway enables appropriately placed instructional assistants to maintain their paid employment and positive impact on students from start to finish.
“To date in Southern Oregon, the culturally and linguistically diverse pipeline programs have graduated 77 students, 85% of whom have progressed to college, with nine either currently enrolled or progressing towards SOU’s teacher preparation program.
Additionally, the Klamath Falls and Coos Bay satellite programs have enabled 73 more candidates to transfer credits without relocating and complete their teacher preparation within the local communities in which they seek to teach,” says Aaron Cooke, SOESD Program Manager for Data & Analytics of the SOESD School Improvement Team.
While various special programs have contributed to increasing the percentage of candidates in Southern Oregon University (SOU) teacher preparation programs from 9% to 24% over four years, the number of Native American candidates has not kept pace. To address that gap, the GYO grant will help establish the role of Tribal Nations Liaisons to oversee outreach to tribal departments of education, and coordinate recruitment of Native American students and/or paraprofessionals enrolling in teacher preparation. Scholarships enabled through GYO funding will reduce financial barriers to entry while navigation coach positions will provide further opportunities for paid employment and leverage candidates’ lived experience to provide guidance and support for peer cohort members.
For candidates in remote and rural locations, SOU satellite programs build upon already articulated community college partnerships with Klamath Community College and Southwest Oregon Community College to enable candidates to “transfer without relocating.” Satellite candidates complete half their coursework and all clinical field experiences within their local communities, while in-person coursework at SOU is limited to one Saturday a month with subsidized accommodation available.
Local recipient Elidia Perez is excited for the future, made possible by the grant. “Being a recipient of the SOESD scholarship will help me further my career goals by helping me pay my tuition. This opportunity will enable me to complete my bachelor’s degree. I feel very fortunate and blessed. I greatly appreciate it and would like to thank SOESD for providing this opportunity,” says Perez.