September 23, 2023

WHEELING — Wheeling Park High School students wanting to be teachers will get the opportunity for a jump start to the head of the class beginning next year.

The West Virginia Department of Education has selected Ohio County Schools as one of 21 school districts in the state to participate in a “Grow Your Own” teachers program.

Modeled after the nursing career technical education pathway, high school students will take the first steps toward a teaching career by earning credits — and eventually classroom teaching experience — before graduating high school. The goal is for candidates to enter a college with a minimum of 22 credit hours.

The school district will partner with West Liberty University in the program, according to Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones.

County school districts will work with colleges and universities to provide college-level instruction and provide building supports around each student as they develop strong professional practices, according to a statement from the State DOE.

WPHS already has in place a “Beyond Education” program that seeks to inspire students to enter the teaching field.

“It didn’t inspire the Grow Your Own program, but it probably is part of the reason we were selected to be a pilot school,” Jones said. “They know what we are doing, and that it is easier for us to be involved.”

Ohio County Schools has already been in contact with WLU officials, and the logistics are being discussed, he added.

Jones said the program could begin next fall at the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

“We are super-interested in this if it can work for us, and work for our kids,” he said. “We met with West Liberty last week, and we need another follow up.”

State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch said “the Grow Your Own pathway is teeming with potential.”

“The county option is a good step forward, but we expect to offer other opportunities for licensure that will give people more flexibility as they explore the profession,” he said. “We are at a critical stage, along with the rest of the country, in dealing with the teacher shortage and we must work creatively, collectively and with consistency to address the challenges to recruitment and retention.”

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