July 11, 2008

A Lateral Move: Program Helps People in Other Careers Move into Teaching

By Lisa Boone-Wood, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Jul. 11--Catherine Powell hasn't always been a teacher, but she has worked in schools most of her career.

Powell has worked for local school systems, going from school to school in Forsyth, Davidson and Alamance counties to teach children about the dangers of drugs.

Her students called her the drug lady.

Now she's an exceptional-children's resource teacher at Carver High School.

She is working toward a teaching license with the help of the Triad Partnership Opportunity -- a collaborative lateral-entry teacher-recruitment incentive program between Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Winston-Salem State University and Forsyth Technical Community College.

The program was created last year to help lateral-entry teachers -- people moving into teaching from other careers -- get their teaching licenses.

Thirty lateral-entry teachers participated in the program this year, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school officials said.

Once lateral-entry teachers are hired by the school system and issued a provisional teaching license, they have three years to complete requirements for the license, said Dave Fairall, the school system's human-resources director.

To get their licenses, the new teachers must head back to school and take such courses as principals and methods of teaching, psychological foundations of education, exceptional children in the regular classroom and classroom management.

The number of courses that a lateral-entry teacher must take varies, but most of them have to take most, if not all, of the six courses offered through the program, Fairall said.

The program helps lateral-entry teachers enroll in the courses they need and can request additional slots for lateral-entry teachers if a course is full.

Program counselors also help the new teachers register for classes.

Lateral-entry teachers must be recommended for the program by school-system officials, apply and commit to completing the program.

The program is free, but teachers have to pay for courses, which can range from about $120 at Forsyth Tech to $700 at WSSU. The program does provide some tuition reimbursement.

"We were trying to address two concerns that our lateral entry teachers have," Fairall said. "One of them is access to courses; it's often difficult for lateral-entry teachers to access the courses they need."

"They're working full time, and we really wanted to improve accessibility and availability of the required courses. And, of course, the cost. We do offer some tuition reimbursement, but that only goes so far." Cutting down travel to take classes at universities outside of Winston-Salem helps, he said.

"I really appreciate both Winston-Salem State and Forsyth Tech. They really were very, very diligent in working through a lot of issues and barriers that made this kind of thing difficult in the past," he said. "It's been an amazing amount of work for something that doesn't seem that complicated."

Powell, 43, graduated cum laude from Winston-Salem State University in December 1988 with a degree in psychology with a minor in sociology. She said that a school official told her about the partnership.

"It came at a very good time," she said. "I was trying to get into the classroom in such a way that I could stay, and I found out about the lateral-entry program.

"I've heard of people having to drive all the way to Greensboro to get their classes, but with this being right here, it's very convenient."

Powell is taking an exceptional-children course at Winston-Salem State this summer.

Enid Velez, 23, a Spanish teacher at Meadowlark Middle School, is also taking the course and working toward getting a teaching license through the lateral-entry program.

Velez, who is originally from Puerto Rico, moved to Winston-Salem last August from Bridgeport, Conn. She saw information about the program in the teacher workroom at Meadowlark.

"I looked into it, and I said, maybe I should give this a try," Velez said. "It's a wonderful opportunity just to meet people.

"You're not alone; it's others that are going through the same process, so you get to meet more individuals that are in the same process as you," she said. "It's great for me because you meet new people, and I'm new to the city."

The exceptional-children course at WSSU is the second of a handful of required courses that Velez needs for licensure, she said.

"It's just a really good opportunity," she said. "The program gets even better and better."

Lisa Boone-Wood can be reached at 727-7232 or at [email protected]


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