Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons with student

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons visited Leesylvania Elementary School on Wednesday, announcing the award of $686,000 in grant funding to Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) and eight other school divisions to support the Grow Your Own Registered Teacher Apprenticeship program.

"We are honored to have Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Coons visit Prince William County Public Schools. Her expertise and commitment to education are invaluable as we continue to enhance our teacher recruitment programs. Her visit represents a significant step in advancing our mission to provide high-quality education for all students," said Dr. Babur Lateef, M.D., Chairman At-Large of the School Board.

Dr. Coons was joined by PWCS Superintendent of Schools Dr. LaTanya D. McDade; Margaret MacGregor, principal of Leesylvania Elementary; and Dr. Kim McKnight, director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Teacher Leadership. Also, in attendance for the announcement include PWCS apprenticeship residents and mentors, Loree Williams, School Board member representing the Woodbridge District, and members of the PWCS human resources team.

“I am just so proud of Prince William County. I’m so proud of Superintendent Dr. McDade and the willingness to be trailblazers, to innovate and change opportunities because in today’s world we have to think differently about education,” said Dr. Coons.

The program, a major innovation in teacher education, is based on the national apprenticeship model and is meant to help address teacher shortages by removing cost barriers and providing quality teacher preparation. As a school-based teacher preparation program, the apprenticeship will cover tuition, provide a full salary with benefits, and pair participants who aspire to become classroom teachers with a strong mentor teacher. PWCS will receive $350,000 to support up to 25 apprentices.

“Looking ahead, we envision a future where the Grow Your Own Registered Teacher Apprenticeship program becomes an exemplary model for others to follow. We aim to address teacher shortages and build a sustainable pipeline of passionate, talented, and knowledgeable educators ready to make a difference in the lives of all our students,” said Dr. McDade.

“This is really the launch of what we believe is the game-changer of teacher preparation, and what that looks like is earn while you learn,” said Dr. McKnight. “By having apprentices that are able to get a salary and benefits while also getting a free degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, and they’re working in a mentor teacher’s classroom. In two years, they will get their degree and head toward a license to become a teacher here in Prince William.”

PWCS applied for the grant funding on behalf of the cross-regional consortium of nine division partners, which in addition to PWCS, includes Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Essex, Henrico, Prince George, and Surry County Public Schools, as well as Petersburg City Public Schools and Waynesboro Public Schools.

 The Grow Your Own – Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program will afford PWCS and partnering divisions with the opportunity to significantly expand the pipeline for recruiting and retaining quality teachers who may not have initially been able to pursue a career in education due to cost barriers. This apprenticeship program will allow them to earn while they learn, complete their bachelor’s degree, and fulfill licensure requirements in the two hardest-to-staff areas, elementary education or special education. Through job-embedded classroom training in high-need schools with one-on-one mentor coaching and feedback, program completers will be well-prepared when entering the profession and will receive extensive coaching and professional development support along the way.

In addition, the teacher apprentices agree to teach for three years in a high-needs school within their division upon completion of the program and receive a career coach who continues to support them during their first two years of teaching in their own classroom.

Watch this video to learn more.