One of the most frequent requests Corinne Murphy receives from school districts as dean of Western Kentucky University’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences is for help with addressing the state’s teacher shortage.
Now, Murphy has an answer.
This week, the college announced two new scholarship programs, the WKU Grow Your Own and GameChangers Teaching Initiative. They are aimed at funneling aspiring teachers into area school districts and cultivating a diverse teacher workforce, respectively.
“Superintendents, since I’ve arrived, have said ‘What do we do to get more people in the pipeline, more students in the pipeline and more students from our own community?’ That’s what makes these initiatives somewhat different,” Murphy said in an interview Wednesday.
In recent years, WKU’s education college has been working to develop a talent pipeline between graduates and regional schools.
Those efforts have included reforms to its program curriculum, and earlier this year, the announcement of a $1 million federal grant-funded initiative to prepare special education teachers and speech-language pathologists through Project PREP.
Now, to further develop those efforts, the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences is working with several area school districts to pilot its two new scholarship programs.
For its Grow Your Own initiative, WKU is partnering with Russellville Independent Schools. Under the project, undergraduate education students will follow the traditional route through the school’s program but then move to a district-based clinical model for practicum and student teaching experiences in their home district, a news release announcing the scholarships said. WKU hopes to expand district partners for this scholarship program in the next few years.
Students receiving support under the program are expected to teach in their partner district for a number of years after they graduate, Murphy said.
“For every year of support we provide you, that’s one year of expected service as a teacher that you would provide the district,” Murphy said.
“So our students out in Russellville, who are undergraduate students, who are going to be supported for four years toward their undergraduate degree, you know the expectation is they return to Russellville and they’re actually a classroom teacher for at least four years,” Murphy said. “They have the opportunity to grow within that Russellville School District experience.”
To facilitate the program’s expansion to other neighboring school districts, Murphy said the college is working with area high schools to launch Educators Rising chapters. While promoting the teaching profession, the plan is to have these student organizations also draw interested students to the Grow Your Own scholarship program, Murphy said.
WKU’s GameChangers initiative also offers an avenue for current school district staff to attend and earn teaching credentials through the university’s graduate education programs.
WKU is launching the program with Warren County Public Schools, the Bowling Green Independent School District and the GameChangers – a local advocacy group that supports equal employment opportunities for the African American community. It’s honing in on enhancing opportunities for Black and under-represented individuals in the education profession.
Murphy said the GameChangers scholarship uses program ambassadors to promote the opportunity among their colleagues.
“Each district has a GameChangers representative working in the district,” Murphy said. “They are actively recruiting professional staff at the district level into the program and making sure that those professional staff (members) are aware of the opportunity.”
Candidates are then encouraged to apply for the program, which requires a referral from the district, Murphy said.
Murphy said the program has already received queries from potential applicants.
“We’ve gotten some inquiries, and we’re able to connect those district staff people who are interested,” with the ambassadors, Murphy said.
– For more information on how to apply for either grant, contact the dean’s office at the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at 270-745-4664 or Tammy Spinks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.