The Forsyth County Board of Education voiced its support Thursday at a work session for an alternative certification program that would give individuals without an education degree a chance to teach.
Forsyth County Schools is looking to implement Georgia Teacher Academy of Preparation and Pedagogy, or GaTAPP, within 18 months.
The program, its website says, “is not intended to replace traditional college teaching programs, but is an alternative pathway to obtain teacher certification for those who hold a Bachelor’s degree, or higher, but have not completed an educator preparation course of study.”
Cindy Salloum, associate superintendent of human resources and legal services for the district, said the program would fall in line with current plans to update the school system.
“We have classrooms across the system that we struggle to find teachers for. We have a lot of people who would love to be in those classrooms, but when it comes to certification it becomes a barrier, so we want to be a program provider,” she said.
The school system’s goal, Salloum added, is to eliminate “certification as a barrier for individuals whose skills and talents offer unique learning experiences for our students.”
She also said with the additions of two new high schools in the next few years — the Alliance Academy for Innovation of Cumming-Forsyth County, and alternative college and career academy, and Denmark High School — officials are concerned about whether they will find enough teachers to fill the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education, or CTAE, programs.
“We have people out there who know how to do the job; maybe they need some pedagogy coaching and mentoring, but they know the subject, [and] they’re probably doing it right now,” Salloum said.
Denmark High School, for example, will offer a veterinary science program when it opens in August 2018.
“If we could find a veterinarian who would [teach] that, I can assure you, he or she knows the job,” Salloum said. “But could he/she teach in the classroom?
“If we can do some of this [training] ourselves, then we will be able to put a person who knows the position into the job, mentor and teach them along the way, as we need, so that we can ‘Forsyth it’ and they know how to do what we want them to do so that they can meet our expectations.”
How would the program work?
Forsyth County’s certification process would begin the summer before the school year in which the teacher is scheduled to start.
The program itself would last only 10 days, preparing the teacher-to-be for their first few weeks of school, Salloum said. Through the year, teachers would also have a mentor who would remain in touch into the following year to help with support and any questions the new teacher might have.
Ultimately, the schools would decide when they felt a teacher was ready to “go it alone.”
Despite agreeing the program is a good way to update the school system, board members questioned whether individuals in other fields would want to teach.
“How would you get a veterinarian, who makes so much more money being a veterinarian, to be a teacher?” District 4 board member Darla Light said.
Salloum said the school system is hoping to find someone tired of the long veterinary hours, for example, and who would be incentivized by the retirement plan the school system offers.
“That was one of my concerns,” said Ann Crow, district 1 board member. “Not just with something like a veterinarian, but across the board, asking professional people to come in and teach. I agree with you — I think some would like to get out of the rat race of corporate America, but probably, going forward, not just with them but with teachers, too, salaries are going to have to be increased to match what is demanded of our teachers nowadays.”
Gwinnett and Fulton counties already have a similar program, and Salloum said she and her team have already reached out to those for help with creating handbooks and curriculum.
“We won’t have to start from scratch,” she said.
Though the board did not officially vote on the program, all members agreed for Superintendent Jeff Bearden, and Light, who is the chair of the BOE, to sign a letter of support.
“I think [this] will be so much more valuable for those people than going through a state certification process, which may or may not have meaning to the particular job you’re doing,” Bearden said. “To be able to ‘Forsyth it’ is really important for our future.”