The bachelor’s degree program aims to remove traditional barriers along the path to a teaching career by bringing higher education into the K-12 classroom
The Hernando County School District is announcing a partnership with BloomBoard to address the nationwide teacher shortage by offering an on-the-job bachelor’s degree program to aspiring teachers through its higher education partner network. The partnership, approved by the Board this week, provides the opportunity for a select group of experienced paraprofessionals and other school community members to be designated to participate in the program and assume the newly formed roles of Associate Teacher Substitutes.
According to the Florida Education Association (FEA), the state is currently grappling with the most severe shortage of teachers and staff in its history. The FEA states that vacancies have doubled in the Sunshine State over the last two years, and it’s estimated more than 100,000 students do not have a full-time teacher. There were 5,294 teacher vacancies in Florida in January 2023, according to the FEA’s last count of teaching and staff positions advertised on district websites. Furthermore, the number of support staff vacancies was 4,631. The Florida Department of Education reports that the shortage is most severe in the areas of Exceptional Student Education (ESE), English, Reading, Science-General, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Math and Science, which comprise approximately 25 percent of courses taught by teachers not certified in the appropriate field. Hernando County’s innovative program could help support aspiring teachers by providing them on-the-job professional learning opportunities to prepare them and advance their teaching careers, and potentially fill similar vacancies.
“This partnership is crucial in tackling the pressing issue of a nationwide teacher shortage within our community,” said Superintendent John Stratton. “The Board’s approval of this program will enable us to cultivate our dedicated educators who aspire to become teachers by removing common obstacles along the path to teaching. By nurturing our team members who already live and work in our community and who can best advocate for our students, we’re building a strong foundation to improve educational outcomes for years to come.”
The turnkey program includes a combination of online and on-the-job learning processes, without the requirement of traditional nights and weekends courses. A newly created Associate Teacher Substitute position will provide a salary increase to paraprofessionals training to become teachers, allowing them to begin contributing to their retirement fund as full teachers, and offering them hands-on experience to gradually assume more responsibility for student instruction.
“BloomBoard is proud to collaborate with Hernando County Schools and Superintendent Stratton, who has championed this groundbreaking program that makes career advancement readily attainable for aspiring teachers,” stated Sanford Kenyon, CEO of BloomBoard. “This partnership represents a huge step forward in transforming the teacher development process, celebrating educators, and improving student educational outcomes.”
The 15 aspiring teachers participating will begin coursework in the fall of the 2023-24 school year, with no out-of-pocket cost to the candidates. To fill the positions, Hernando Schools will work with additional organizations, including Troops to Teachers, a program that helps service members and veterans become certified and employed as teachers in K-12 schools.
To learn more about the Hernando County School District, visit www.hernandoschools.org.
For more on BloomBoard, visit http://www.bloomboard.com.
About Hernando County School District:
The Hernando County School District is a fully accredited school district located on the central-west coast of Florida, also known as Florida’s Adventure Coast. The school district serves more than 24,000 students and is the largest employer in Hernando County with more than 2,800 dedicated staff.