By David Thompson
Over 20 paraprofessionals who work for the Howard County Public Schools (HCPS) have completed their course work at Bowie State University and will become certified teachers after they graduate in two weeks and pass the state’s Praxis examinations through a Maryland Department of Education program designed to address the teacher shortage in school systems across the state.
The Para-educators Pathways to Culturally Responsive Teaching (PP-CRT) project is a teacher collaborative grant program between Bowie State and the Howard County Public Schools to prepare more elementary and high school teachers. It was also developed to promote a more diverse teacher workforce, provide a leadership succession plan and infuse professional learning experiences with culturally responsive pedagogy that enhances engagement with students in the classroom and their families.
“We’ve learned that teacher aides and other paraprofessionals bring a vast amount of experience interacting with students and parents, and already understand some of the many cultural nuances that accompany teaching in public schools in the 21st century,” said Dr. Jacqueline Sweeney, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development. “The para-educators program has proven to be an excellent work-around allowing parents to keep their jobs while earning their degrees in education. Some of the para-educators had between 5 – 20 years of experience in the HCPS which means they were already very familiar with many of the policies and procedures that classroom teachers adhere to.”
The collaborative grant program with Bowie State and the Howard County Public Schools began in the fall of 2022. Students are eligible to accept teaching positions in Howard County or any school district in Maryland or another state after they graduate.