They want to teach, but getting a degree was hard. This new program eases that burden

Columbia Basin College is offering a new Bachelors degree

Columbia Basin College Dean for Transitional Studies Daphne Larios talks about new Bachelor degree starting in the Fall of 2019.
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Columbia Basin College Dean for Transitional Studies Daphne Larios talks about new Bachelor degree starting in the Fall of 2019.

Columbia Basin College is joining efforts to fill teaching positions at local school districts.

After nearly four years of work and dozens of requests, the college is rolling out a bachelor’s in applied science degree in early childhood education starting this fall.

The program kicks off with 20 spots and is specifically designed for people who finished their associates of applied science degree in early childhood education at the college. That gives hundreds of students an easier path to get their bachelor’s degree, said Michael J. Lee, the college’s vice president for instruction of arts, sciences and program development.

“There is a great need for educators in the K-12 system,” he said. “According to the statistics we have, half of the recent positions were filled with people who didn’t have the full certification.”

When they are finished, the students will be qualified to teach pre-kindergarten through third grade. That covers a broad swath of jobs which can range in pay between $13.78 an hour and $23.35 an hour in Washington, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

The high end of the pay scale is at the schools who are saying they need more teachers. Pasco Superintendent Michelle Whitney said the state is already facing a teacher shortage, and with more requirements on the horizon to lower class sizes, the problem is likely to get worse.

“In the current recruitment environment, we need additional programs — like CBC’s — that will open new avenues to train the next generation of teachers,” Whitney said in a letter written on behalf of a committee helping to organize the program.

Richland and Kennewick’s superintendents also weighed in with their support of the new offering.

On top of the pressures faced by the school district, educators across the country are putting more emphasis on getting students prepared for kindergarten. State and federal laws are pushing employees of child care centers to get a bachelor’s degree.

Tapping into a different group

Lee and Whitney are quick to point out that the college’s new program taps into a group of potential teachers who aren’t getting their bachelor’s degree now. These are people who went through the college’s associates of applied sciences program.

That is because the associates in applied science degrees aren’t designed to transfer to a four-year school, said Soo Park, the director of program development and baccalaureate opportunities.

Normally, those students start at the college looking for a short-term certificate, before seeking a two-year degree.

Generally, those students go right into the workplace, then continue to take classes at night. Without a way to easily move into a bachelor’s program, there is a population of potential teachers who aren’t likely to start over at a four-year institution.

“As a result, we are missing a valuable pool of potential teachers who come directly from our communities,” Whitney said. “By offering this certificated teaching program locally, CBC will expand our teacher candidate pool.”

Those students are interested in getting into the program, said Daphne Larios, the dean of transitional studies. She has received several phone calls asking if the college was going to start offering the bachelor’s degree.

The first half of the program is designed to allow students to continue working during the day while they take classes at night. Then, for the second half of the program, students will move into classrooms, where they will start student teaching.

The college plans to expand the program by the summer of 2020 by offering an option for part-time students.

More information is available at or by calling Larios at 509-542-4562.