Berlin, N.H. (April 27, 2023) – In response to the need to certify and retain more teachers across the region, White Mountains Community College (WMCC) is addressing the teacher shortage in the North Country through a new accelerated training program. The Educator Fast Track program enables paraprofessionals to become classroom teachers by earning a Special Education certificate and continuing to the associate degree in Teacher Education. Students can then transfer seamlessly into a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in order to become certified teachers.
“We have listened to the concerns from the school community on the critical shortages within our classrooms,” said Robin Scott, WMCC professor of education and former 23-year veteran public school teacher. “The Educator Fast Track program aims to develop the pool of committed paraprofessionals to fill these in-demand teaching positions. These individuals are committed to and knowledgeable about their communities and we want to remove as many potential barriers and help them take the next step in their career.”
The Educator Fast Track program starts with the 26-credit Special Education certificate which focuses on the origins of special education, legal issues in education, strategies for teaching students of all abilities, as well as building a positive classroom and school environments for all students. Through learning on the job and by demonstrating proof of competency, paraprofessionals can receive credit through the Credit for Prior Learning program using a guided portfolio assessment for up to five out of eight classes. Next, students can earn an associate degree in Teacher Education that concentrates on the foundations of education with a focus on elementary. Designed with work in mind, most classes are held at night to accommodate concurrently working as a paraprofessional.
The above degree and certificate programs transfer seamlessly into the North Country Teacher Certification program, a partnership between WMCC and Plymouth State University (PSU), enabling students to earn a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. All 78 credits earned at WMCC transfer 100 percent to PSU. Students will complete the additional 42 PSU credits locally at WMCC’s Berlin campus to earn a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education to become certified teachers.
“The world needs more qualified teachers,” said Martha Miller, SAU 3 special education director. “White Mountains Community College has created an excellent and flexible opportunity for folks who might otherwise not pursue a teaching credential. The Educator Fast Track program enables paraprofessionals to use their experiences in the classroom and their hours of professional development, toward college credits for certification, while also enabling them to stay in their jobs, taking classes in the evening. In the current climate of teacher shortages, the Fast Track option is a game changer for our Northern New Hampshire school district. With the climbing costs of post-secondary education, this program is an affordable, flexible opportunity for hardworking paraprofessionals to apply the skills they have and to learn the skills they need to become a teacher.”
Becoming a certified teacher can double income for paraprofessionals by providing them with professional growth opportunities. Having a pipeline of trained teachers is the foundation for building a strong community. Based on New Hampshire’s Economic Labor Market Information Bureau data, 20,040 secondary teacher positions will need to be filled during a 10-year span ending in 2030, which underscores the significant job opportunities available for paraprofessionals. WMCC’s Educator Fast Track and the North Country Teacher Certification programs address some of those shortages through accelerated pathways for paraprofessionals.
White Mountains Community College (WMCC) is located in Berlin, New Hampshire with a satellite campus in Littleton, and is one of seven colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire. WMCC offers associate degree and certificate programs, plus training options, preparing students for 21st century job opportunities as well as transfer pathways to four-year colleges and universities. WMCC is fully accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Courses within WMCC and the Community College System are the most affordable in New Hampshire and the Littleton Academic Center increases access to all students in the North Country Region. Courses are available day, evening and online. WMCC courses transfer to four-year colleges and universities in New Hampshire and across the country.