07/18/04 — WCC teacher program growing

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WCC teacher program growing

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 18, 2004 2:18 AM

Debbie Grady believes Partnership East will grow beyond anyone's expectations.

The new teacher education program being offered by East Carolina University was introduced at Wayne Community College in December, with classes beginning in August.

The program is already filled, with 44 students gearing up to earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education or special education without having to travel to Greenville.

"The accessibility of this program has helped many make the decision to enter teaching," Ms. Grady said. "We have tried to remove the barriers of transportation, being able to stay close to home and complete a four-year degree."

She said financial assistance, grants and scholarships are also helpful incentives for students.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for candidates to improve their quality of life and become a certified teacher, ready for employment while working and remaining in the community," she said.

Wachovia Partnership East South Central Consortium serves students in Duplin, Sampson, Lenoir, Johnston, Greene and Wayne counties. Discussion about such a program actually started a decade ago, with the first hub site in Craven County introduced in 2002.

Students in the program are called cohorts and complete specific general education courses at their local community college. The remaining courses are taught through evening classes at Wayne Community and via the Internet from East Carolina.

As a former public school administrator, Ms. Grady said she understands the importance of expanding access to quality education. She can also identify with many of the students because she is going through a similar program herself.

"I'm still working on my doctorate," she said. "I have been in an off-campus doctoral cohort program in Greenville, run very similarly to what we're doing here.

"I'm experiencing everything that my students are experiencing."

She says the Partnership East model will be a powerful tool in combating the teacher shortage in North Carolina and across the nation.

"This is a real grow-your-own teacher program," she said. "If you're removing the barriers and helping these students through the process, then I think you will see more people come into the area of teaching."