- Waco Independent School District
Combatting Teacher Shortage
WACO, TX (October 4, 2023)--By 2025, the estimated number of school teachers required nationwide will be approximately 300,000. The number of existing teachers is expected to be only 100,000. In anticipation of this growing shortage, Waco ISD continues to grow its “teacher pipeline” and will launch its WISD Bachelor Degree Program in the Spring of 2024 and provide an additional pathway for paraprofessionals to become teachers.
Waco ISD hired 200 certified teachers for the 2023-2024 school year. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Daniel Lopez said WISD is working to not only hire certified teachers but to also build teachers through current paraprofessionals.
“It is the most important thing that we do to get people who actually live in this community to invest in this community and to work in this community because they know it,” Lopez said. “They know the kids and they know the families that are around them.”
Waco ISD has designed a teacher intern program where the district will compensate paraprofessionals to earn their bachelor’s degrees and teaching certifications. WISD Director of Opportunity Culture Melissa Cox said it is the district’s goal to eliminate the barriers that keep excellent employees from becoming teachers.
“They have the skill and the desire to impact our students. I talked with them and asked them ‘Why are you not completing your degree?’ And, what we found…was the cost. It's very expensive to get a degree. They have the ability but not the confidence to start and finish a degree program, and need dedicated time to complete the coursework to become certified teachers,” Cox said.
To qualify, paraprofessionals must have a proven track record and attend professional development before being placed in the teacher intern pool. The teacher intern receives an increase from his paraprofessional salary and will be paid a reduced rate of a teacher’s salary. The difference in salary will fund an instructional coach to provide direct support, mentorship, and feedback to the teacher intern. The teacher intern will have the option to select from partnering universities to complete his degree. Fifteen teacher interns will be selected for the first cohort with additional teacher interns hired annually, not to exceed 25 in a single school year.
WISD has created a myriad of additional pathways to ensure a robust teaching staff to include an alternative certification in partnership with McLennan Community College to assist degreed paraprofessionals, who already have bachelor’s degrees, to earn their teaching certifications. Waco ISD pays for the coursework and provides release time for paraprofessionals to take time from their workday to complete their certifications.
Degreed Paraprofessional Deanna Carreon of Kendrick Elementary enrolled in WISD’s Alternative Certification Program in Spring 2023 and completed her coursework through MCC while simultaneously completing her bachelor’s degree. She was hired as a first grade teacher this school year.
“I went to Waco ISD schools. My children were raised in Waco ISD schools. I have always had a passion to better my community,” said Carreon who has worked eight years in the district. “This program encouraged me and put people in my path that encouraged me...in a community that I love.”
The Future Educators Academy was also created in the 2022-2023 school year, allowing students to earn their associate’s degrees and paraprofessional certifications so they may begin working in the classroom immediately upon high school graduation.
“As we are focusing on growing our students, we are changing generations of what they can potentially do and we are changing their families,” Cox said. “This is a gamechanger for our students and our paraprofessionals.”