KSDE Weekly

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Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program (RTAP) aims to break down barriers to place more teachers in the classroom

Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program (RTAP) aims to break down barriers to place more teachers in the classroom

Recognizing the skills current paraprofessionals and other district staff have to become teachers is the first step in the Kansas Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program, or RTAP, that is wrapping up its first year. 

“It just made sense for us to grow our own, even though we’re short on paras,” said Tonya Phillips, assistant superintendent of Tonganoxie Unified School District 464. “But they’re getting that hands-on experience that is so valuable. It’s a whole different ballgame.” 

Phillips is describing the experience her district has had so far with two classroom paraprofessionals at Tonganoxie Elementary School who are participating in one of the RTAP pilot programs. The program, administered by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), aims to get more teachers into classrooms to address the ongoing educator shortage in the state. 

“If we’re not getting people into the traditional (teaching) programs, this helps us do that,” said Shane Carter, KSDE director of Teacher Licensure. “It kind of flips the script.” He said the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2022 designated teaching as an apprenticeable profession that can have registered apprentices, which, in turn, paved the way for the RTAP to be created. 

(Pictured above: The KSDE Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program apprentices at Tonganoxie Elementary School, Tonganoxie USD 464, are on the front row, from left: Melissa Douglas and Megan Alexander. Pictured on the back row, from left, are Calesta Blazo, principal of Tonganoxie Elementary School, and Tonya Phillips, assistant superintendent of Tonganoxie USD 464.)

Carter said the RTAP was developed with paraprofessionals, graduating high school seniors and non-degreed staff in mind to address teacher vacancy issues. Apprentices who are selected by their districts are compensated for on-the-job learning with a structured wage scale while providing funding to alleviate the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree in education. After graduation and successfully completing the program, apprentices receive a Kansas teaching license and are placed in one of their district’s classrooms.  

The RTAP, Carter said, allows communities to invest in themselves and support their local school district to address teacher vacancies. The program provides resources for those who desire to become teachers and think the cost of higher education is out of reach. 

“The program provides the opportunity to create a teacher population that reflects our student population,” he said.   

In Tonganoxie, Phillips said the two apprentices who are part of their pilot have “strong leadership” skills, are comfortable running their classrooms and have been with USD 464 for several years. She said they also are good working with children with special needs. In fact, one has decided to become a special education teacher and the other wants to pursue a career in early childhood education. 

“It was a very easy transition for us,” Phillips said, “Both of these paras are so good with working with children with special needs.” 

Just because the RTAP provides another way to become a teacher beyond the traditional route, Phillips said going through the process can still be stressful. The apprentice works full-time and takes classes outside of the workday. 

“You really have to think through who you choose as an apprentice,” she said. “They’re having to do the full load and all the courses everybody else does.” 

To alleviate some of the stress, Phillips said the Tonganoxie Elementary School and district community have fully embraced the two paraprofessionals in their journey to become classroom teachers.   

“Our staff members have been so encouraging of them, they’re just like family,” she said. “Our instructional coaches have been supportive of them as well. I contact and communicate with them regularly.”  

Phillips said the two apprentices also are talking to other paraprofessionals in the district about the RTAP. The deadline to apply for the next cohort of apprentices is June 1.  

“I’ve told them to be brutally honest,” she said. “They’re sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. Our new apprentices are going to appreciate that so much. I love the relationship we’ve built with them.” 

“The greatest reward is gaining the knowledge to better support students so they can be successful,” said Megan Alexander, one of the apprentices. “My greatest challenge has been learning how to manage my time between work, school and home. It takes time and hard work, but if your dream is to become a teacher, then joining this program is a great choice.” 

Click here for more information about KSDE’s Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program. You can also email apprentice@ksde.org or call (785) 296-1862.   

Posted: May 9, 2024,
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