TENNERTON — Students at Buckhannon-Upshur High School (B-UHS) were led in a presentation about the West Virginia Grow Your Own (W. Va. GYO) program on Thursday, April 21. The W. Va. GYO program is a college pathway for high school students interested in the field of education.
State Superintendent Clayton Burch, Director of Educator Development and Support Carla Warren and Milken Educator Brian Allman spoke to students about the W. Va. GYO initiative. W. Va. GYO is aimed at eliminating the teacher shortage in West Virginia. Additionally, students will receive hands-on experience in addition to their coursework.
Information obtained from a press release from Upshur County Schools reports that the Upshur County School District has partnered with West Virginia Wesleyan College to offer the W. Va. GYO pathway. Coursework has been developed to include both high school and college level courses. Throughout the program, students will earn credits toward college graduation by taking courses part-time at Buckhannon-Upshur High School and part-time at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Students enrolled in the W. Va. GYO program will complete a year-long residency as a classroom teacher in Upshur County. Following the residency, students will return to Upshur County classrooms to work as teachers for three consecutive years.
Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus, Superintendent of Upshur County Schools, shares, “Our partnership with West Virginia Wesleyan College allows our students to become part of a local initiative that is meaningful and impactful to our school system and community. Together, we are inspiring future educators. The W. Va. GYO program is part of our community, our investment, and our future.”
In another press release from the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), the goal with W. Va. GYO is for candidates to enter a college with a minimum of 22 credit hours. By starting their career with a foundation in pedagogy and practical classroom experience while surrounded by mentors and other education professionals, the student will have a better entry into the profession. Furthermore, State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch explained, “The Grow Your Own pathway is teeming with potential. The county option is a good step forward, but we expect to offer other opportunities for licensure that will give people more flexibility as they explore the profession. We are at a critical stage, along with the rest of country, in dealing with the teacher shortage and we must work creatively, collectively and with consistency to address the challenges to recruitment and retention.”
As of February 2022, it is reported that the following counties are participating in the W. Va. GYO initiative: Berkeley, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Logan, Marshall, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Ohio, Pocahontas, Putnam, Summers, Taylor, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne and Webster. The W. Va. GYO program is slated to begin in the fall of 2022.
Teachwv.org reveals that benefits of the W. Va. GYO program include:
• Early start on college
• Reduced time to complete a bachelor’s degree
• Introduction to the education profession
• Classroom observations and field experiences before college
• Core Praxis exam for students in Year 2 (senior year) free
• Ability to earn salary, benefits, and seniority in residency year
• Reduced cost (Students receive four tuition free dual credit courses in the 2022-23 year.)
Teachwv.com provided a breakdown of what the program will look like from high school to graduation. The site explains that in high school, “Counselors and partnering institution faculty advisors will assist with scheduling, financial aid, testing requirements, etc. to enroll in the teaching pathway. The goal is for students to graduate high school with a minimum of 30 hours of dual enrollment/AP credits, including the four introductory education courses. Participants will enter college classified as a sophomore. During their junior and senior years of high school, students will have the opportunity to spend time in real-time classrooms in their home county schools.”
In Year 1 it states that “Upon graduation from high school and completion of the pathway, students will be admitted into the education program and begin classes the fall after high school graduation. You will take courses in both spring and fall.” Year 2 will “complete coursework and required testing in the fall, spring, and summer (if needed) semesters.” Year 3 will “participate in yearlong residency as the teacher of record with high levels of support from both the university and the county. Simultaneously, students may complete any remaining university classes in the fall and spring semesters. The county system will provide a cohort supervisor to mentor, coach and support multiple teacher residents serving as teachers of record.” Finally, for graduation, “At the end of the third year at the university, students will have earned required credit hours and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education. Participating school districts agree to give hiring preference for teaching positions, when possible, to graduates of the West Virginia Grow Your Own Teaching Pathway Program.”
Following the presentation, State Superintendent Mr. Clayton Burch stopped by to visit the staff and students at The Wonder Academy. The Wonder Academy is a Pre-K program located within the B-UHS. To learn more about The Wonder Academy visit www.upshurschools.com. For more details about the W. Va. GYO program log on to www.teachwv.com.