Cherokee County schools just got out for the summer, but a group of Reinhardt College's recent graduates are already gearing up for the new school year to begin. Twenty paraprofessionals (right) graduated this spring from the College's Price School of Education (PSOE) Parapro Program (Alternative Teacher Certification Program) and all have secured teaching positions in the county and will teach students in their own classrooms this fall.
Parapros support the classroom teacher in providing educational opportunities for each student. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to: conducting small group or individual classroom activities based on lesson plans developed by the teacher, assisting in the supervision of students, and preparing materials for lesson instruction.
"I am very excited about the 2008-09 school year," said Deborah Wallace, a Canton resident who finished the year as a parapro at Liberty Elementary School but will begin teaching in the Early Intervention Program at Arnold Mill Elementary School this fall. "Reinhardt has given me the tools I need, as well as the experiences in the classroom, to be an effective and successful teacher."
The Parapro Program -- a pilot program launched in January 2005 by Reinhardt's PSOE, the Cherokee County School System and Appalachian Technical College -- allowed parapros to continue working full-time, earn their associate degree at Appalachian Tech and then complete their bachelor degree in early childhood education at Reinhardt. To earn a teaching degree at most schools, students must commit to full-time student teaching without working another job; for most working adults, losing one's income for a semester is impossible. Because of the parapros' extensive classroom experience, this innovative program allowed them to keep their full-time jobs and complete alternative student teaching experiences supplemented with PSOE courses.
The Parapro Program evolved from its initial format into Reinhardt's current WAIT (Working Adults Into Teaching) Program. WAIT, a degree completion program offered to students who have a two-year degree in education or equivalent hours, began in January 2008 and already has 30 students. These students take two evening classes each eight weeks for nine semesters then complete the program with traditional student teaching.
Going back to school was a huge step for Debbie Nunn (top left), a parapro for nine years, most recently at Liberty Elementary. She said the support of her family and Reinhardt's faculty made the program feasible. "With two active children and a full-time job, I thought it would be a strain on family and schedule," she said. "As the program went on, however, I adjusted to juggling the heavy work schedule, my family commitments, and the homework assignments. My family was a strong support, and the professors were there for me 24/7 through the whole process."
The knowledgeable faculty is what Monique Carroll (right) enjoyed most. "Most of our teachers were current or former teachers in Cherokee's school system," said Carroll, a Canton resident who was also a parapro at Liberty. "Because they had real-world teaching experience, we were able to learn their strategies that were proven effective in the classroom; I am excited to use what I have learned and apply it in my own classroom." Carroll will teach first grade at Joseph Knox Elementary this fall.
As the pilot program came to an end this spring, each graduate is now preparing to take on a new role this fall: full-time teacher. In their first year, each will complete an internship supervised by Reinhardt faculty.
"My anticipation will definitely not outweigh my excitement to use the skills and knowledge I have accrued," explained Nunn, "not only from years under the direction of several master teachers, but also from my experiences in the early childhood education program at Reinhardt College." She will teach kindergarten this fall at Canton Elementary.
Harriett Lindsey, associate professor of education at Reinhardt and coordinator of the WAIT Program, enjoyed seeing the students change and grow. "The students came to Reinhardt very apprehensive and anxious. I have never seen a group more motivated to change their lives, and they did just that. They learned so much about themselves and their abilities as teachers. Each has become a polished professional ready to begin their career in the classroom."
Lindsey views the parapro program as an impressive success. "The papapro program really paved the way for the new WAIT program. We learned so much about teaching working adults, about their needs and how to fine tune a curriculum that provides the content and the real world lessons that teachers can really use. The Cherokee County school system -- particularly Frank Petruzielo, superintendent of schools, and Jackie Miller, supervisor of professional development/training -- and Appalachian Tech also worked so cooperatively to help these students succeed. And the ones who will really benefit will be the children who learn in their classrooms in the years ahead. That's where the benefits will really become apparent."
WAIT classes are taught on Reinhardt's main campus in Waleska, Ga. The program includes summers and takes approximately nine semesters to complete. The next WAIT group will begin this fall '08. For more information about the WAIT program, contact Harriett Lindsay at 770-720-5581 or e-mail HAL@reinhardt.edu.
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