A new program at the University of Northern Iowa could help ease the state’s teacher shortage by allowing paraeducators to become certified teachers without leaving their current jobs.
All classes for the two-year program, called the Purple Pathway for Paraeducators, will be offered online outside of normal work hours.
Colleen Mulholland, dean of the UNI College of Education, says more schools are looking within their own classrooms to develop new teachers.
“Paraeducators come to the profession in many, many different ways and many of them are very interested in continuing their career growth in education,” Mulholland says, “so the Purple Pathway is our attempt to fill that need.”
Mulholland says paras have experience in the classroom that makes them good candidates to become new teachers.
“Paraeducators are committed to the community. They’re committed to the school,” she says. “They’re, in some cases, the constant or the continuity for students in their school.”
Applications for the program will be accepted starting this week. Earlier this year, the state Department of Education announced a grant program to support schools that create apprenticeships for paraeducators to finish their teaching degrees.
(Grant Gerlock, Iowa Public Radio)