Pilot Program Helping Nebraska K-12 Paras Transition to Teachers

Nebraska K-12 School Districts Launch Pilot Program to Cultivate Future Teachers

OMAHA — In a new venture funded with $1 million from the Legislature, three Nebraska K-12 school districts are embarking on a pilot program this spring to nurture prospective educators.

Joining forces are North Platte Public Schools, Lincoln Public Schools, and Westside Community Schools in Omaha, collaborating with higher education institutions and the state to pave the way for para-educators to pursue a career in teaching.

The implementation of Legislative Bill 705 in 2023 was one of the Legislature’s initiatives to provide local school districts with more resources to combat the ongoing scarcity of teachers in classrooms.

Upon acceptance into the program, which targets classroom aides or educational assistants, individuals can streamline the cost and duration required to complete a tailored teacher education program.

Innovative Credit System

Collaborating with Chadron State College, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Midland University, the program will enable paras to earn college credits for their practical classroom experience.

Nebraska Education Commissioner Brian Maher unveils the inclusion of the Westside district in Omaha as the third participant in the statewide pilot program aimed at guiding paras in their journey to become teachers. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Termed as the “apprenticeship model,” this initiative pairs paras with mentor teachers in their respective schools, who function as co-teachers and offer constructive feedback to the paras and college faculty.

The State Education Commissioner, Brian Maher, announced Westside as the third pilot district on Wednesday at Westbrook Elementary School, where educational assistant Shelly Sip supports kindergartners in reading.

Sip is part of a district-funded program that paves the way for her undergraduate teaching studies at Midland University while she continues working full-time during the day.

Expressing her aspirations to transition from an educational assistant to a teacher, Sip highlighted the financial support crucial to fulfilling her dream within the district or state.

Reflecting on her educational role, Sip acknowledged the invaluable experience gained through assisting in various classroom activities and expressed her desire to continue contributing to the district’s educational mission.

Emphasizing her deep-rooted connection with the district and her commitment to its educational ethos, Sip articulated her dedication to becoming a teacher within the community.

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