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Union County leaders seeking solutions through new program to help combat ongoing teacher shortage

The program partners with students and teaching assistants to help them find a path to an associate’s degree with the help of scholarships and low tuition.

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Union County leaders approved a plan Tuesday night to shore up the county's teaching shortages. It's a new program called NEXT Steps: Teach UCPS.

The program partners with students and teaching assistants to help them find a path to an associate degree with the help of scholarships and low tuition.  

They say their goal is to develop effective teachers.

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Right now, North Carolina has about 5,500 hundred vacancies and they’re hoping this new program will help fill in the gaps. The district itself has nearly 100 vacancies in critical areas. They’re optimistic this program will also provide opportunities for classified employees and students who are pursuing a teaching license.

The program offers four pathways: Three for high school students and one for teacher assistants.  

Students can start classes as early as 9th grade and work through classes to earn an associate degree from South Piedmont Community College. They then can enroll in the Road to Wingate program to earn a bachelor's degree.

"Our partnership with South Piedmont Community College, Wingate University, and Union County Public Schools to really give our current students multiple pathways to choose from while in high school," Union County Public Schools Superintendent Andrew Houlihan said.  

A teaching assistant route follows a similar pathway to becoming a certified teacher. Students will have the opportunity to work alongside current teachers and students within the district.

"It's a long-term investment, we know it will take three to four years to see the return on investment," Houlihan said. "But we're excited to have these options for students."

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Students who are interested can contact their school counselor and interested teacher assistants contact the UCPS human resources department.

Contact Tradesha Woodard at twoodard1@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  Contact Colin Mayfield at cmayfield@wcnc.com or follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 


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