When Veronica Paredes moved to the United States, she looked into becoming a teacher, and didn’t see a way for her to complete the rigorous coursework required by many teaching programs while continuing to work. After learning about the ESD-U teacher certification program from fellow staff, she realized the flexible schedule and opportunity to use her current work experiences could open the door to becoming a teacher.
The ESD-U teacher certification program, offered in partnership with ESD 112 and Washougal School District provides a pathway to earn a teaching certificate for WSD staff with a bachelor’s degree working in a classified instructional capacity such as a paraeducator. This residency-based program offers alternative routes to teacher certification, as well as a ‘retooling’ route for currently certified teachers seeking to add an endorsement in another education specialty.
“The program supports the idea of us ‘growing our own’ teacher staff from our talented classified employee base,” said Renae McMurray, WSD Assistant Superintendent. “It provides an opportunity for staff interested in pursuing an advanced career in education, and it lets the district invest in and retain these excellent employees as they build their skills.” Murray added that, “The alternative routes program supports a diverse set of staff who might otherwise not be able to complete the rigorous coursework required for a teaching degree, recognizing the need for flexible schedules and opportunities to use experiences in their current position.”
Participation in the program includes attending courses, completing field experience hours in a classroom environment setting and passing a state-required assessment. Students in ESD-U can use their regular position to fulfill a majority of the field experience requirements if the position matches the endorsement pathway. For instance, a special education paraeducator getting a special education endorsement. Certificates include endorsements in areas like English Language Learners (ELL), Reading, Special Education, and Elementary Education.
Veronica Paredes participated in ESD-U to earn a certificate in ELL and Elementary Education and is currently a Dual Language Kindergarten teacher at Hathaway Elementary.
“I had a job as an ELL Paraeducator, and the ELL teacher told me about the classes at ESD-U,” explained Paredes. “I also heard about it from a student teacher, who studied there. After that I asked the Washougal School District and Renae McMurray gave me more information and I started getting all the documents I needed to apply.”
Paredes saw benefits to participating in the ESD-U program as opposed to other teacher certification programs. “I think to study in ESD-U is a good opportunity,” she said. “Their class schedules are accessible when you have a full-time job. All the instructors and staff have a lot of experience. They teach and guide you.”
The admission process begins each January, with successful candidates beginning instruction during the summer. When the public school year begins, students are placed in a residency with a district while they continue ESD-U courses and training.
“It is an amazing job and now I thank all the teachers for what they do, teaching all the children,” Paredes said.
ESD-U is operated by ESD 112 and has been approved by the Professional Educator Standards Board. ESD-U offers a variety of payment plan options to provide financial flexibility for candidates as well as scholarships. Visit www.esd112.org/esd-u/ for information on the upcoming classes for 2022-23.