By Season Craven
Two new programs at Amarillo College will create more teachers who will live, work and teach in the Texas Panhandle. New partnerships with Texas Tech and Texas Woman’s University will create streamlined opportunities for local students to get their teaching certificate, without leaving home.
AC officials say this is especially beneficial for students who already work in local schools as teacher assistants or support staff. AC wants to meet them where they are, according to Dennis Sarine, director of teacher preparation and early childhood education.
These new programs will work with school districts and allow students to transfer to Texas Woman’s University or Texas Tech. Students will learn remotely and be able to continue to live and work in the Amarillo area.
“TWU’s goal is to work with rural school districts to certify their current para-professionals, aides and substitutes that more than likely have some college, but they provide a way to complete certification. So, folks that live in Shamrock or Perryton can stay in their community, continue working, complete their course work, and graduate,” said Rochelle Fouts, AC child development instructor.
Representatives from TWU will be in Amarillo to walk the students through the program.
“TWU plans to have representatives of the Teacher Preparation Program on the Amarillo College campus about every six weeks,” said Barbara Lerner, TWU vice provost for undergraduate studies and academic partnerships. “We know that we can communicate effectively by phone and Zoom, but also understand that many students will prefer to meet in person to ask questions. These visits also make it possible for our faculty to continue working collaboratively with Amarillo College faculty to ensure that the education curriculum is well aligned. This process should eliminate a student’s fear that they will have to repeat classes or take more classes than they actually need once they transfer. Our goal is to eliminate any excess hours for students,” Lerner said.
TechTeach, through Texas Tech University, even makes it possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in one year of online learning and student teaching. “This one-year track is fast and furious, but it allows a student to complete 60 hours in one year,” Sarine said. This program is still in its infancy and the first class graduated in August with eight students, but Sarine said he sees the program growing quickly. There are already 530 students in the TechTeach and TWU programs.
This comes at a pivotal time for local areas who are dealing with an immediate need for teachers. “There is a critical teaching shortage in our area, and we want to create pathways for students to become teachers and stay in Amarillo,” Sarine said.
“The demand for teachers is great. Each year the Texas Panhandle has anywhere from 700-1200 teacher openings. Districts are looking for certified teachers year-round,” Fouts said.
“This is going to be a game changer for our community,” Sarine said.