As reported by The News & Observer and in The Hendersonville Times-News in August 2022, North Carolina public schools started the new school year “with thousands of unfilled teaching positions and thousands of other classrooms taught by people who aren’t fully licensed.”
News outlets reported anywhere from 4,400 to 5,500 classroom teacher vacancies across the state. Our local school districts, much like communities across the state, need teachers who are trained, committed, and excited to join other talented educators. The need for educators who represent the breadth of students’ backgrounds, experiences and cultures is greater than ever.
In response to this now widely recognized need for well-trained, qualified teachers, state education leaders created easy-to-follow articulation agreements for teacher preparation between the NC Community College System’s 58 colleges and the UNC System’s four-year colleges. In response, Blue Ridge Community College provides seamless pathways for aspiring teachers who can pursue an associate degree here at home and then go on to pursue a four-year degree in the future.
Associate Degree Programs
Blue Ridge’s associate degree programs in teacher preparation are designed for students who want to enter the teaching profession at any grade level – kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students have two options to choose from while at Blue Ridge. They can choose the Associate in Arts in Teacher Preparation if they’re interested in teaching elementary education, arts education or subjects in the humanities. Or, they can choose the Associate in Science in Teacher Preparation if they want to teach math, science or other STEM subjects. Our academic advisors assist students in choosing the program that best suits their interests and career goals.
Balancing Work, Family and School
Knowing that one size does not fit all, our teacher preparation programs are offered in various formats to accommodate students from all walks of life. We have a fully online option as well as in-person classes during the day and evening. No matter which grade level or discipline our aspiring teachers are interested in, our two-year program makes it easier to balance work, family and school. It can be the jump start a student needs to begin their college career – without leaving a current job or juggling family responsibilities while attending college.
Attending part-time is also an option for those who need to extend their training over a longer period – a very common approach for students who are unable to attend college full-time.
Paying for Teacher Education
Blue Ridge offers an array of options to help pay for a student’s education. The Brighter Future Scholarship covers tuition and is available for the upcoming spring semester 2023. Students can also explore financial aid options like TeachNC specifically suited for future teachers. Additional options include Pell grants, work-study, and scholarships through Blue Ridge’s Educational Foundation.
Exploring a Teaching Career While in High School
Career and College Promise is the College’s dual enrollment program and allows area high school juniors and seniors to take Blue Ridge classes while still in high school. These courses count for high school and college credits, and are tuition-free.
By pursuing the Career and College Promise option, a high school student could potentially complete nearly 60% of an associate degree by the time they finish high school. It’s also an excellent way for students to begin to think of themselves as future teachers and learn about the career options available in their communities.
Henderson County Public Schools also participates in the statewide Teaching as a Profession (TAAP) program, which provides opportunities for their students to take coursework and participate in real-world field experiences designed to practice the teaching profession.
Supporting Tomorrow’s Teachers
Blue Ridge students can expect a high level of support while enrolled in our teacher preparation programs. Our academic advisors assist in course selection and graduation readiness, and our success coaches serve as mentors working with students throughout their time at Blue Ridge. They can help with study skills and time management and connect students to campus resources such as tutoring.
By offering seamless pathways, flexible learning opportunities, affordable or no cost tuition, and ongoing academic support, Blue Ridge is able to remove barriers for students who wish to start their teacher training right here at home. And ideally, they’ll stay in our communities and teach the next generation of students.
For more information about teacher preparation programs offered at Blue Ridge Community College and registration information, please visit our website at blueridge.edu/education or call me at 828-694-1819.
Shelah Combs is T.eacher Preparation / Early Childhood Education at Blue Ridge Community College.