Two Richland elementary schools will have a new source of student teachers in the fall, thanks to an expanding teaching program at Heritage University in Toppenish.
Between 30 to 36 teaching students will be in classrooms at Marcus Whitman and Jefferson elementary schools as part of a joint effort between the private university and Educational Service District 105 in Yakima. More students could follow in January for the spring semester.
Elementary students will benefit from the increased attention they'll receive in the classroom, while Heritage students, spending as much as four semesters working with a classroom teacher, will be highly trained, university and ESD officials said. At the same time, the school district hopes to cultivate its future teachers through the program.
"(Richland) looks at it as a one-and-a-half to two-year job interview," Mark Cheney, program co-director at the ESD, told the Herald.
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Called HU105, the teaching program, which began in 2010, offers bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Heritage, which has about 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students. After finishing the program, the college students are qualified to teach kindergarten through eighth grade and also can earn an endorsement for working with English language learners.
The students work in teams of three with a certified teacher in cooperating school districts. Those seeking a bachelor's degree spend four semesters working in classrooms while master's candidates spend three semesters.
That's different from many other teaching programs which don't necessarily require students to spend as much time working hands-on in schools, Cheney said,
The program was previously available in several districts across the Yakima Valley. Cheney said Richland school officials approached the ESD and Heritage about bringing it into the Tri-Cities.
"We're very happy about expanding," he said.
The state agency charged with overseeing teacher training and development has cited HU105 as the most innovative teacher training program in Washington, Richland Assistant Superintendent Erich Bolz said in a news release.
"Not only will it be terrific for the classrooms that have HU105 candidates in them, but the teachers that graduate from the program are extremely talented and will likely stay in the Richland School District once they graduate," Bolz said.
And Heritage students training through the program will have another benefit beginning in the fall: they'll be able to work toward a special education credential, an area where many districts are seeking teachers, Cheney said.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; email@example.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald