Finding teachers is becoming especially difficult. In fact, the demand for teachers has increased by 250% in Washington over the past five years. ESD 112 is working to alleviate the shortage by helping people already working for schools to obtain their teaching certificates through a program called Alternative Routes to Certification. The program removes some common barriers (time and money) to certification by allowing people to keep working while obtaining their certification.

Working in partnership with the Battle Ground, Kelso, Vancouver and Washougal School Districts and City University, ESD 112 applied for and received a two-year grant to fund certification for future teachers in shortage areas, including Special Ed and English Language Learners (ELL).  Seventeen people participated in the program during the 2016-17 school year, and at the same time, continued working in schools in eight school districts across Southwest Washington.

In addition, ESD 112 was recently approved by the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) to certify teachers in the state of Washington. The first entity that’s not a college or university to be approved to certify teachers, ESD 112’s application came as a result of their partnership with school districts in response to the growing need.

Paraeducator Kyle Sharpe completed the program last year.  He attended classes on weekends through City University and got on-the-job training in different classrooms with students at varying levels of ability and needs.

“The hands-on approach really sets us, and the district, up for success,” Sharpe said.

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the highest rate of attrition for teachers (22.4%) is in the first four years of their teaching career. By accepting people already working in the system and giving them more experience in their training year, the likelihood of these newly certified teachers leaving the profession in the first few years drops considerably.

“Our program is being designed and taught by practitioners with real world public education teaching experience,” said Mike Esping, Coordinator of Educational Initiatives and Professional Learning for ESD 112. Esping will be managing the certification process for the new ESD 112 Alternative Routes program, called ESD U. Applications for ESD U will start to be accepted this winter, with the hopes of putting more promising teachers like Kyle Sharpe in the front of the classroom.

Sharpe already has his new assignment. He’s in a structured learning class (SLC) at Chinook Elementary School. “I want to be there for these kids,” he affirmed. “And I know I’m going to do a good job.”