By Janice Phelan, April 10, 2019
Thanks to a partnership with four metro-area school districts, the University of Central Missouri is launching a new program designed to help paraprofessionals obtain a bachelor’s degree in education while continuing to work full-time. Known as Grow Your Own Teachers, the UCM program provides the flexibility, support and convenience working adults need to reach their education and career goals.
Paraprofessionals, sometimes called paras, work side-by-side with teachers to assist students. Traditionally, paras must eventually give up their full-time job in a school setting in order to complete the college coursework as well as the observation and practicum requirements for a bachelor’s degree in education.
“We want to provide a pathway to enter the teaching profession for paraprofessionals who have a love for students and teaching,” said Linda Glasgow, a UCM College of Education instructor serving as faculty mentor for the program.
Grow Your Own Teachers will operate out of UCM Lee’s Summit, located at the Missouri Innovation Campus. To allow the paraprofessionals to continue working full-time during the school year, courses will be offered evenings, online and summers, said Brenda Fuhr, UCM Lee’s Summit lead coordinator of student transition and engagement. If enough paraprofessionals enroll from a school district, the university will work to offer some courses at the district’s facilities.
UCM staff members have worked closely with the school districts’ human resources officials to create a program that utilizes the paraprofessionals' classroom experiences to meet requirements for practicum hours. School districts involved in the program, which begins in June 2019, include Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit and Raytown.
Interest in Grow Your Own Teachers is already high with more than 100 paraprofessionals from area schools expressing interest in the program through survey responses and transcript submissions.
“Each student will receive an individualized program of study created by academic advisors,” Fuhr said.
For a student with no previous education college coursework, the program would take around three years to complete with a student taking roughly 27 hours each year. Participants will join a cohort of other paraprofessionals to share experiences while also working with a program coordinator/mentor for additional support.
Four areas of teacher certification are included in Grow Your Own Teachers, including elementary education, early childhood education, cross-categorical special education and early childhood special education.
Paraprofessionals from the four participating districts who are interested in learning more about Grow Your Own Teachers may contact their human resources department as well as the following staff members from UCM: Brenda Fuhr at email@example.com or Linda Glasgow at firstname.lastname@example.org.