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Grant gives Woodburn students a path to a teaching career


The Woodburn School District has joined other districts around the state in a program that encourages students to start thinking as early as middle school about a career in teaching.

The Oregon Department of Education is funding two of five consortiums through the Chalkboard Project’s TeachOregon initiative. The grant, which is $250,000 a year for two years, allows the school district and university partners to implement new practices and policies by funding recruitment and selection, clinical practice, hiring and placement, and mentoring and induction. Additionally, there could be grant money to provide scholarship opportunities for participating students.

“It’s the mentorship of students starting in middle school, if they’re interested in the teaching profession,” said Woodburn Superintendent Chuck Ransom. “It’s a way to keep that interest going with a structured program, ultimately trying to channel them into high school courses, then college.”

Woodburn is part of the PAC-7 consortium, which also includes Sherwood, Newberg and Tillamook school districts and George Fox University, Pacific University and Chemeketa Community College.

Patricia Ramirez, Woodburn’s director of human resources and operations, represents the district on the consortium team, which meets once a month and is still in the beginning stages of putting the program together.

“At this point, it’s still a concept, it’s not been fully developed yet,” Ramirez said.

While it’s unclear how mentoring would look at the middle school level, ideas include allowing students to observe teachers and to visit colleges and universities. That would be followed by a high school level course that would specifically address teaching. High school students would also have an opportunity to take college courses that would focus on teaching.

“It would be a pipeline for these same kids to then go on to college and study to become a teacher,” Ramirez said.

Through this initiative, the Chalkboard Project hopes to encourage more minorities to be teachers, since only 8 percent of Oregon’s teachers are minorities. Another reason for the push of this initiative is that by 2020, Oregon schools will need to hire 16,400 teachers, a full third of the teacher work force.

Ransom pointed out that the concept is in line with Gov. John Kitzhaber’s 40-40-20 initiative, which has a goal that by 2025, 100 percent of students will graduate on time, with 40 percent going to technical school or getting an associate degree and 40 percent going to post-secondary schools and obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“If we want schools to really help kids move into the work force, this is on track with that initiative,” he said.

Ramirez added that it was a natural move because the district already has a relationship with George Fox and Pacific universities with a co-teaching program, in which college students on track to become teachers come into the district and work alongside a veteran teacher.

“It enhances what we already have in place,” she said.

Parts of the project that have already been started include: a meet-and-greet last month at the Pacific University Woodburn campus for stakeholders and prospective students; the purchase of iWalk software, which is a tool for giving feedback to teachers; and the hiring of a site consultant at the high school, a recruiter as a go-between for the school district and community college and Woodburn-based Izo Marketing for communications efforts.

Ransom, who likened the program to career technical education that is common in many high schools, said this is an excellent opportunity for Woodburn because the district itself requires specialized teachers for its bilingual program.

“It’s really exciting because we can essentially grow our own teachers,” he said. “Woodburn’s K-12 bilingual program seems a natural context for guiding future teachers into the profession who are both linguistically and culturally competent in more than one language.”