Cardona Emphasizes Significance of Teacher Apprenticeships During Iowa Visit

Jay McCord, a student at Des Moines Area Community College, has been working as a paraeducator in the Perry Community School District for three years. He is now participating in the college’s teacher pipeline program to further his education.

McCord and other educators from Iowa had the opportunity to share their experiences with the U.S. Secretary of Education last week. The goal is to expand the opportunities provided by DMACC to schools and teachers nationwide.

According to McCord, education was challenging for him, and he needed a lot of extra help. The program has greatly benefited him by allowing him to be in the classroom while taking classes and connecting his schoolwork to real-life teaching experiences.

Miguel Cardona, the U.S. Secretary of Education, visited Iowa on December 7th to learn about the successes and challenges faced by students and teachers. He also explored programs like those offered at DMACC that create pathways for aspiring educators.

Cardona visited Perry Elementary, which was recognized as a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, and then spoke to DMACC students who also work as educators in Perry and other schools. The focus was on the community college program and the opportunities it provides.

Both groups emphasized the need for more teachers to support students. Programs like DMACC’s Teacher Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship program, offered at the DMACC Perry VanKirk Career Academy, play a crucial role in making education degrees more accessible.

Cardona mentioned that he heard the importance of teacher support from various sources, including college students, a college president, and even second-graders. The earn-and-learn approach of the program allows individuals of all ages, including high school students, adults, and current paraeducators, to gain work experience while pursuing their education degree.

Students in the program receive support from professors and mentors and can receive up to $7,000 for tuition and fees for a maximum of two years. To participate through the Perry school district, students must commit to remaining in the district for three years after graduation. The program also fosters a sense of community among the students as they work and learn together.

According to DMACC student Emilie Cross, the program provides a support system where students can rely on each other.

McCord believes that increasing exposure to the DMACC program would attract more students and educators to join, ultimately expanding the workforce. Currently, around 30 states have teaching apprenticeship programs similar to DMACC’s. Cardona aims to promote this idea systematically and ensure that every state can establish pipelines for prospective teachers.

In Cardona’s words, the program at DMACC serves as an exemplary model that he hopes to replicate in all 50 states.

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