MADRAS, OR -- A unique partnership between the Jefferson County School District and George Fox University is allowing student teachers to work and train in classrooms they could eventually be leading.
It's called the "Grow Your Own" program, and Superintendent Rick Molitor says it’s an effort to reverse a trend in rural school districts that often struggle to recruit and retain good teachers. He tells KBND News, "We traditionally have about 12-16% rollover in our teaching staff. So, of approximately 250 teachers, we traditionally will see anywhere from 20-30 new staff members join us each year."
Four teacher candidates, now in their second year of the program, are working in third and fourth grade classrooms at Warm Springs K8 Academy as educational assistants. A fifth is working in Crook County. George Fox Assistant Professor Katy Turpen says it allows participants to remain employed while they complete their Bachelor’s Degree and teacher certification. "The co-teaching model we’re using is not new; the student teaching requirement is not new. The novel part of this is the fact that Jefferson County has employed these people while they’re doing their student teaching. Which is amazing, because they would be required to leave their job per Oregon law, for 15 weeks, to be embedded in a classroom. And for many folks that’s just not feasible. They can’t give up benefits and a salary for 15 weeks."
Molitor says the program also addresses other reasons young teachers don't stay with rural districts like 509J, "One of the struggles out there is ensuring that they know what kind of lifestyle and community they’re moving to." Of the current participants, he says, "They’re already a part of Madras; a lot of them have families and have their roots here." He feels there's a pretty good chance they'll stay with the district once they complete their training, but he admits there's no guarantee. "We’re not like binding them to a contract that makes them stay here."
To hear our full conversation with Molitor and Turpen, visit our Podcast Page or click HERE. Other rural districts have expressed an interest in the program, and Turpen says George Fox is considering expanding it to benefit other parts of the state.