Thoughtful, energetic, knowledgeable teachers are the critical foundation of an educational system. But what happens when there aren’t enough teachers to go around? This is a question that Greenville County Schools is being forced to ask. With demand for quality teachers exceeding the supply, it’s a critical time for teachers nationwide. It’s especially a concern in Greenville County, which had to fill more than 520 vacancies in 2015 alone.
To address this shortage, Public Education Partners has teamed up with Greenville County Schools to create an innovate, workable solution: the Greenville Alternative Teacher Education program (GATE). GATE is a three year, district-embedded licensure pathway into the teaching profession for people with bachelor’s degrees with a major or emphasis in science or math, but no formal education training.
The first program of its kind in South Carolina, GATE is structured much like a medical residency program. Applicants with degrees in math and science are carefully selected based on demonstrated leadership ability, strong achievement in academic and professional settings, and the mindset to work effectively with students of different backgrounds.
GATE teachers begin preparation during the summer and begin teaching “Day 1” of the school year. Their learning and growth is supported by professional development that continues over the course of the school year. Guided by a curriculum framework aligned to GCS Performance Standards and focused on student learning and current pedagogical research, GATE teachers learn how to become thoughtful, engaged educators. GATE teachers also receive on-site coaching and mentoring from district teachers throughout the three-year program. Upon completion of their residency, GATE teachers are fully certified South Carolina teachers.
The key to GATE’s success is its strong focus on teacher support. Studies show that 26 percent of teacher vacancies in Greenville County are due to teachers who did not return to their post. With GATE, we aim to reverse this trend by giving teaching residents the encouragement and guidance they need to teach with confidence. We do this by providing each resident with intensive coaching and mentoring, ongoing evaluation and multiple opportunities for active participation in professional learning communities. With a rich body of local support, GATE teachers are guided into their new role in the classroom and given the tools they need to thrive.
GATE is supported by a collaborative partnership among entities such as Greenville County Schools, the South Carolina Department of Education, Public Education Partners and the GATE Program Advisory Council, which is representative of GCS, the community, local businesses and institutions of higher education. PEP has supported GATE by raising funds from local businesses and foundations to offset costs GATE teachers would otherwise incur, recruiting a high quality applicant pool and providing ongoing feedback to programmatic and curricular developments.
In the fall of 2016, 10 GATE teachers were hired to teach math and science in nine Greenville County middle and high schools. In 2017, through the support of Duke Energy, that numbered increased to 18 math and science teachers. Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, the program could include up to 20 new teachers, and will include the subjects of French and Spanish.