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‘Grow Your Own’ Program May Solve Teacher Shortage

by Danielle Smith, Keystone State News Connection

‘Grow Your Own’ Program May Solve Teacher Shortage

A shortage of teachers has reached a crisis level in some of the 500 school districts serving more than 1.7 million K-12 students in Pennsylvania.

Aspiring educators and advocacy groups are awaiting the state Senate vote on House Bill 141, which would create a statewide “Grow Your Own” teacher preparation program.

Jermaine Bailey, the first graduate of the Grow Your Own program in York, has worked as a paraprofessional in the York City School District, earning his degree and teaching certificate. He said his experience was wonderful and even more special because his oldest daughter, ShaWanna, also joined him in the program to become a certified teacher.

“Right now, all of us are minorities,” Bailey pointed out. “So that’s even a better situation for us. Because not only are we helping with the shortage of teachers, but we’re also increasing the amount of minority educators in the York school district and City of York and also in the state of Pennsylvania.”

Bailey acknowledged cost is a barrier for some people who want to teach, but he added with the help of York School District superintendent Andrea Berry, he and his daughter were able to keep their paraprofessional positions, receive their salaries, and continue to do student teaching within their school building while attending the program.

ShaWanna Bailey is preparing to embark on her teaching career at McKinley K-8 school in the fall. She said while she was working as a paraprofessional and attending Grand Canyon University, she was encouraged to seek higher education to become a certified teacher in Pennsylvania.

“I had an assistant principal reach out and tell me that I should pursue my higher education, which I already have one degree, but he said I should go for a master’s to become a teacher,” the younger Bailey recounted. “And I reached out to my dad, and he really encouraged me to go ahead and make that step.”

Bailey noted the school district where she will be working has about 95% minority students. She thinks it is important for students of color to see teachers who look like them and have experienced what they have experienced.

She added “being able to portray and build relationships with students will help them get an authentic education that feels real and honest.”