RPCC program to alleviate ‘teacher crunch’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008

SORRENTO – Statistics suggest that by the end of this decade, two-thirds of the nation’s teachers will be eligible for retirement. That means Louisiana, already experiencing a teacher crunch, will need even more educators for the classroom.

 River Parishes Community College (RPCC) in Sorrento, La., is helping to meet that need with its involvement with the Associate of Science of Teaching (AST) program, and the college calls the first-ever graduate of the program in the state, KaLee Schols, as its own.

“I’m very honored and privileged to be the first (AST graduate) in this state,” Schols said of her May 20 graduation date. “With the help and dedication of the teachers at RPCC, I have accomplished my goal of being able to begin my career as an up-and-coming elementary teacher.”

Originally from Burlington, Washington, Schols moved to the Gonzales area in 2005. She found information about RPCC’s existence on the Internet, and about the AST program from school bulletins around campus. “I thought it was a great way to start off becoming a teacher because you could get all your [prerequisites] done, and not have to worry about the stress of a big university,” she said.

“I’m very proud of her accomplishments,” said Julie Sullivan, RPCC’s AST coordinator. “She is the kind of student who always strives for perfection, and that drive will take her very far.”

River Parishes Community College enrolled a charter class for the fall of 1999 offering courses that appeal to students who aim to transfer into an upper division program and complete a baccalaureate degree.  Louisiana TeachNext is an innovative solution to the problem of low teacher quality in public schools struggling with chronic classroom vacancies and lagging records of achievement. The program provides students like Schols with a flexible, cost-effective and rigorous pathway into the classroom. Successful candidates earn the new Associate of Science in Teaching (AST) degree, transfer all of their credits to a four-year university and launch a career teaching in a historically underserved community. Louisiana TeachNext is a collaborative effort of the Louisiana Board of Regents, the Louisiana Community & Technical College System, and The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving teacher quality in urban and rural schools. TNTP provides training and assistance on candidate recruitment, selection and operations to River Parishes and four additional participating community colleges (Baton Rouge, Bossier Parish, Delgado, and Nunez).

Louisiana TeachNext makes teacher preparation accessible, affordable and viable for a greater number of people. Credits completed by program participants transfer as a block to four-year universities.

“The AST program helps students get their general education classes plus some field experience before transferring to their university of their choice,” Sullivan said. “It gives them a head start on their road to certification.”

The priority application deadline for students interested in enrolling in the Associate of Science in Teaching degree at RPCC for the fall 2008 semester is May 23.  Applications are available online at www.LouisianaTeachNext.org

Louisiana TeachNext and prospective new teachers such as KaLee Schols will make a difference to students and can become models for initiatives nationwide. For more details about Louisiana TeachNex, contact Julie Sullivan, RPCC’s AST coordinator, at ast@rpcc.edu or (225) 675-8270.