Spring ISD, in conjunction with longtime district partner Prairie View A&M University, is launching a new initiative aimed at connecting current Spring ISD classroom paraprofessionals with career advancement opportunities through Prairie View A&M’s alternative teacher certification program and the university’s Whitlowe R. Green College of Education.
During its June 9 work session, the Spring ISD Board of Trustees approved the new program, officially called the Panther Teacher Education Residency Model, or PantherTERM. The initiative is launching this summer, with instructional paraprofessionals working in Spring ISD who already hold a bachelor’s degree being invited to apply for admission to the three-year program. Those accepted will start with a full-year paid teacher residency during the 2022-23 school year, followed by two additional years of support and training through Prairie View A&M’s graduate school of education after each participant becomes a teacher of record working in their own classroom.
By the time they complete the three-year PantherTERM program, participants will be highly qualified, fully certified classroom teachers with experience and a master’s degree in education from Prairie View A&M. Program participants will sign a three-year intent-to-serve commitment to continue their teaching in Spring ISD.
“We’re grateful to our partners at Prairie View A&M for helping bring this career advancement opportunity to our instructional paraprofessionals, who work so hard and give so much every day in the classroom,” said Spring ISD Chief of Innovation Dr. Matt Pariseau. “It’s also a result of our Spring ISD Board of Trustees’ strong vision to offer innovative professional development opportunities like this to district employees.”
In addition to connecting PantherTERM participants with mentor teachers and a learning community of fellow teacher residents, the program will provide ongoing professional development and support, coaching to prepare residents for their content area certification exams, technology tools and tech support, and even the opportunity for student loan forgiveness for serving as teachers in high-needs settings.
To help smooth the professional transition, during the participants’ initial teacher residency year – after leaving their paraprofessional roles – the program will utilize U.S. Department of Education grant funding to provide them with an income close to that of a first-year Spring ISD teacher. The majority of program costs are fully covered, except tuition for graduate coursework at Prairie View A&M, for which additional scholarships, grants and financial aid may also be available.
“This really is a win-win opportunity,” Pariseau said, “both for these dedicated district employees who can advance their careers and earning potential, and for Spring ISD itself, which reaps the benefits of a strong internal talent pipeline that rewards those who have demonstrated their commitment and caring for our students as instructional paraprofessionals.”