WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — Under a new policy announced by Governor Ralph Northam, getting an education degree in Virginia will be far more simple.
Previously, students “had to complete a Bachelors degree in a subject matter like mathematics or english,” said Ashley Lockhart, the Academic Affairs Coordinator at the State Council of Higher Education Virginia. “Then at the end of four years, they would go on to a fifth year masters degree.”
Advocates for the program say it’s one major step towards filling the teaching shortage in Virginia.
“In 2017 at the start of the school year there were 1300 classrooms that did not have teachers in them,” Lockhart said, adding that in one district, one third of the teaching positions were open at the start of the school year.
Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va. is one of just 15 schools in the Commonwealth that will have a new education degree under the policy–which is expected to open doors for prospective students.
“This opportunity that the state legislature and the Governor saw to say, ‘We want to attract people who choose to say ‘I want to be a teacher’ and here’s a four way path–four year path to become a teacher,” said Jill Lindsey, the Director of Shenandoah’s School of Education and Leadership.
A key part of filling the teacher shortage is also training and retaining a diverse teaching staff, Lindsey says.
“This is a big push in education nationally as well as in Virginia is that we really need to recruit a population that is reflective of the students in our schools,” she said. “That means men in elementary and middle grades, that means individuals of all colors and religions and nationalities and various diverse dispositions.”
Graduate student Samantha Maddy, who is studying to become a special education teacher says during her student teaching experience, she realized how important diversity in the classroom is to students.
“You go into the classrooms and they are diverse. You have to show those kids that there are people that look like them, that overcome different obstacles,” Maddy said. “I mean I know definitely when I was in school there was no diversity in the classroom texts, and now I’m seeing that a lot.”
George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, William & Mary, Ferrum College, Liberty University, Marymount University, Randolph College, Roanoke College, Sweet Briar College and the University of Lynchburg will join Shenandoah University in providing these 4-year programs.