The eighth annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), a nationwide celebration of innovations in addressing labor shortages, was held Nov. 14-20, and the Perry Community School District (PCSD) in collaboration with DMACC and UNI had cause to celebrate.
The high school partnered with the colleges to implement the Teacher Paraprofessional Registered Apprenticeship (TPRA) program after landing a $750,000 grant in June from the state of Iowa to increase the number of teaching paraprofessionals and credentialed teachers in the PCSD.
The first cohort of apprentices began their related training instruction at the DMACC Perry VanKirk Career Academy in August by taking coursework in education and composition.
Felicia Moe started as a paraprofessional with the PCSD in 2018 after having previously obtained a college degree. Since joining the TPRA program, Moe has shifted her focus to becoming a preschool teacher.
“I want to make a difference in kids’ lives and I’m good with kids,” she said, “and this program will allow me to grow in my current position and get the bachelor’s degree that I’ve always wanted.”
Program apprentices may obtain a paraprofessional certificate and an associate’s degree in education. The TPRA is open to high school students and adults who work in eligible school districts.
The Dallas Center-Grimes School District is allotting some TPRA funds to encourage high school students to pursue teaching as a career. DCG students who enrolled in classes at the DMACC Teacher Academy take college classes during the fall semester and then gain on-the-job experience in the spring semester while getting paid hourly wages.
“The DMACC Teacher Academy provides an excellent opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to experience this career path,” said Julie Morgan Kopecky, DMACC Teacher Academy instructor. “By the end of the program, the Teacher Academy students are able to earn a semester of free education credit coursework, and more importantly, the students earn hands-on, K-12 classroom observations and experiences to enhance their academic time in the college classroom.”
Students who choose to finish their associate’s degree at DMACC might be able to complete their education at little or no cost and remain close to home while working at DCG schools. DCG senior Laura Klaessy, for instance, said the academy program was a perfect fit for her.
“The DMACC Teacher Academy is a great opportunity to gain knowledge and experience about education,” Klaessy said. “I am really eager to get into the classroom, not only because we get paid, but also because it’s a tremendous opportunity.”
Apprentices close to obtaining a teacher license may complete their related training instruction through the University of Northern Iowa’s 2+2 program, an option chosen by Andrew Brown, who obtained his bachelor’s in Kinesiology before finding his interest in education while working as a paraeducator at Perry Elementary School.
Brown is interested in teaching science in the future, and he will begin the UNI 2+2 program in May after obtaining his paraprofessional certificate at DMACC.
“I chose to enter the teaching profession after seeing teaching in action first-hand following my initial year as a paraprofessional,” said Brown. “I love the atmosphere and the thought of helping students find their passion.”
The TPRA grant ends in June 2024.