Career Changers

6-Week Crash Course Brings Nontraditional Teachers to Classrooms in NC District

This summer a North Carolina district launched a crash course for career-changers and nontraditional college graduates who want to become teachers. The six-week program at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools drew 82 candidates, of which 64 were still in the running at the end of July to get their own classrooms in August; 30 have already been hired. The program was inspired by TEACH Charlotte, which had the same goal of turning non-teachers from varied professions into teachers for specific subject areas.

While the CMS Teaching Residency drew from among those with some teaching experience, such as substitute teachers already working in the district, a big emphasis was placed on recruiting recent college graduates and experience professionals who wanted to move into teaching.

Every candidate needed a bachelor's degree, an undergraduate grade point average of at least 2.7, the right to work in the United States and a commitment to taking all state-required certification tests. After filling out an application, prospective participants also went through virtual interviews to help them learn more about the program and allow the district to decide whether they were good fits. Candidates also had to pay for the training, which ranged from $1,500 to $3,000, comparable to the university courses they might take as an alternative.

Days lasted as long as 11 hours, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The training focused on the grades and subject areas where teachers were most needed. For the upcoming school year that included elementary grades and secondary math. Teacher candidates practiced the skills they'd need in the classroom by helping teach CMS summer school students.

Now, those who have completed the program are waiting for the state Department of Instruction to give approval that would allow the district to endorse participants for a "residency license." After getting a year of teaching under their belts and passing state-required certification exams, the same individuals will receive an "initial professional license," which is valid for three years. After three years of teaching, they'll qualify for a "continuing license," which runs for five years.

In reporting by the Charlotte Observer, the district said that it expected to continue the program next year, focusing on the same set of needs as well as English language arts. Among the group who have already found teaching positions was Kyra Spaulding, a former hospital financial counselor, who knew going in that she'd earn less in her new job than her old one. As she told the reporter, "There's something precious about that look on a kid's face when they have that light bulb moment... Money can't buy that moment."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.