‘Grow Your Own’ Develops Paraprofessionals into Teachers and Covers Certification Cost

‘Grow Your Own’ Develops Paraprofessionals into Teachers and Covers Certification Cost
Brittany Eatmon

Brittany Eatmon has always wanted to be a teacher, and now, she is steadily working her way toward her goal – thanks to the Duncanville ISD ‘Grow Your Own, Stay at Home’ program.

This year, the district launched the program to give paraprofessionals, who are currently employees in the school district and already have a bachelor’s degree, the opportunity to earn their teaching certificate – at the district’s expense. The program is funded by a grant specifically designed to grow candidates for hard-to-fill jobs like bilingual, special education, secondary math, science and career technical education.

Brittany works as a Special Education Aide at Fairmeadows Elementary School. She is one of five Duncanville ISD employees who interviewed for and received a spot in the program. The application process was rigorous and included a grade point average requirement, recommendations and a face-to-face interview.

Brittany and her cohort are currently taking courses through the iTeach TEXAS alternative certification program. The program provides courses and learning modules the paraprofessionals need to complete to take the tests required for their teaching certificates. Brittany said she tried to do the coursework on her own in the past, but found it hard to stick with it.

“What I like about this program is that it feels like we’re going to do this as a family, as a team,” Brittany said. “Having that mentorship and someone who’s going through the trenches with you.”

Duncanville ISD provides a teacher mentor for each person in the program.

“I’m working under a certified teacher who’s been doing this for 20 years,” Brittany said.

She also receives guidance from her coworkers.

“They’ve been really good and kind people who are willing to answer any questions I’ve had,” Brittany said.

Duncanville ISD Chief Human Resources Officer Kathleen Brown said there’s another perk to earning an alternative teaching certification while working in the district.

“Typically candidates are not able to work while they are completing their internship to become a teacher because this is done during the school day,” Mrs. Brown said.  “This opportunity allows the cohort participants to obtain their hours in their current role and continue their employment which is a huge benefit.”

The cost to the district is around $4,000 per enrollee. That covers the fees for coursework and taking certification tests.

In return for the district’s support, program enrollees agree to remain employed with Duncanville ISD for three years. Brittany and her cohort are expected to be  ready to take their exams in December and to interview for teaching positions within the district for the next school year.

“My goal is to continue to teach in Duncanville and grow here and see where my career path takes me,” Brittany said. “The kids need us and that’s where my heart lies. So why not take this opportunity?”