01/22/04 — WCC forms partnership with ECU

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WCC forms partnership with ECU

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 22, 2004 2:03 PM

Wayne Community College signed on as a partner Wednesday with East Carolina University to help the county "grow its own" teachers.

Wayne Community became the third site for the Partnership East program, designed to meet the increasing demand for classroom teachers by making the four-year education degree more accessible.

The South Central Consortium is made up of Lenoir, Sampson, Johnston and James Sprunt community colleges, as well as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Students from those areas will be able to take the courses required to earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education or special education from ECU without having to travel to the Greenville campus.

Dr. Marilyn Sheerer, dean of the ECU College of Education, said the partnership has great potential to reduce the teacher shortage in rural areas.

"Of all the things we do in teacher education at ECU, it's the outreach through community colleges to grow teachers that makes the most sense to me," said Dr. Sheerer.

Dr. Sheerer said that in the 30 years she has been at ECU, people are always asking for "stuff." She noted that Dr. Ed Wilson, president of Wayne Community, had also asked, "When's the College of Education going to come out here and do more?"

She said he was right to ask.

"We recognized early on that we needed to create some sort of infrastructure to deal with this," she said.

By way of history, she said four hub sites were proposed in eastern North Carolina, and full-time coordinators were hired at Craven and Edgecombe community colleges.

In late November, Debbie Grady, who was a teacher, counselor and principal, was hired to coordinate the program at Wayne Community. Her job will cover a five-county area.

Her job is to recruit 24 students or "cohorts" to begin the program in the fall at Wayne Community College. The group will go through the program together. It takes about three years.

Courses will be the same as those offered at ECU, with the difference being the professors travel to Goldsboro. On-line courses will also be available.

Wilson said this week's official announcement was very important and long-awaited.

"We're delighted to be partnering with ECU in a very exciting program to prepare teachers for the public schools of our area," he said.

"This program is a partnership in the truest sense. ... We're proud to provide the facilities and house the coordinator for this program."

Ms. Grady said the teacher training program could not come at a better time to make a real difference in this part of the state.

"As a former principal, one of the greatest challenges facing principals today is filling the positions of teachers," she said.

In the six weeks since she was hired, she said, she has met with nearly 200 students and made hundreds of phone calls. She said she has also handled about 50 referrals from the lateral-entry program for potential teachers. These teachers have a bachelor's degree but lack certification in education.

She said she is finding that her role also extends to that of liaison between the various communities and the university.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved in the counties served by this consortium," she said.

Of all the initiatives introduced by ECU, Dr. Sheerer said, this one is the most powerful.

"I don't think there's anything that measures up to this model," she said.