Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw school district testing program to help teacher shortage

A new program between Eastern Michigan University and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District will train teachers to help with the shortage.

"I wanted to be an individual that made impact in the decision-making with students with exceptionality," said Luther Mayfield, a paraprofessional. 

Mayfield said he has wanted to become a full-time teacher, but the cost of education has prevented that. While would-be teachers struggle with the cost, schools are struggling to fill jobs.

"For some of our positions, especially our special education teacher and paraprofessional positions, there are literally no applicants," said Naomi Norman, the superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

So, the district decided to team up with Eastern Michigan University for a solution. It’s called the Paraprofessional-to-Teacher Certification Pilot Program.

"We also worked with Michigan Department of Education in order to receive a waiver to allow us to do this special program," said "The waiver allows a teaching assistant or paraprofessional in the program to go through all of the teaching coursework and Instead of doing two semesters of student teaching they do one."

It helps to address the critical shortage of special education teachers in Michigan by investing in existing public school employees who want to become teachers.

"They have students who they’re working with right now that they can start applying what they learn in our classrooms, and they do," said EMU Professor David Winters.

Those who support the program say one of the biggest benefits is that it removes barriers.

"The districts are also paying for this program. Eastern gives a reduced tuition rate, but the district is paying for it," Winters said.

Mayfield is enrolled in the program and will finish in December. He already has a position lined up at Childs Elementary.