CHRISTIANSBURG — Teachers beginning their careers with Montgomery County Public Schools will soon be able to save thousands of dollars — and earn some extra hours of off-time — when it comes to earning the credits needed to become fully licensed.

MCPS officials recently announced that the three years of additional coursework that provisionally licensed teachers must complete will be moved in-house starting next spring. MCPS is also the first school division in the state to make that kind of a change, school officials said.

Across Virginia, provisionally licensed teachers are required to complete a series of courses at local colleges and universities to finish their licensing process — and stay on with their school district.

“I am very excited about the opportunity we can provide to our teachers to make their lives a little easier, as they move to full license from a provisional one,” school board Chairwoman Gunin Kiran wrote in an email. “We will be a model for many divisions in the Commonwealth.

“As you know, times are challenging in terms of finding qualified teachers,” she wrote “MCPS is doing its best to hire the best teachers for our students and to support them so they will continue to teach for us.”

MCPS officials say it’s not uncommon for beginning teachers to burn out due to that extra academic requirement.

The school district has found that the additional courses and coursework — each of which are done outside of the work day — can distract teachers from their jobs, Deputy Superintendent Annie Whitaker said.

Additionally, school district officials say teacher burnout is a concern due to the fact that public schools are experiencing a teacher shortage crisis.

“Provisional folks have a high burnout rate,” said Jonathan Schulz, MCPS supervisor of grants and innovation. “We hope it’s going to really increase retention.”

MCPS can make progress on the retention issue because the demand for teaching careers is relatively strong, Whitaker said.

The school district hosted a meeting last year to provide information on the steps to becoming a teacher, Whitaker said. About 60 people attended the event on word-of-mouth alone, she said.

“There are people with bachelor’s degrees who want to be teachers,” she said.

Teachers who did not major in education begin their jobs on a provisional license. They obtain a full license by completing six courses over a three-year period. Those courses are called:

  • Human development and learning.
  • Curriculum and instruction.
  • Classroom and behavior management.
  • Assessment of and for learning.
  • Foundations of education and the teaching profession.
  • Language and literacy.

Teachers typically take one three-hour course a week, school officials said. MCPS teachers do receive an educators’ discount, but typically pay from $1,000 to $1,500 a semester to take the required courses, school officials said.

With the change, MCPS will move all but the language and literacy course in-house. School officials said they are working on eventually bringing that course in-house as well.

“Our goal is that any teacher who goes through this process stays with us for years,” Schulz said.

Times when MCPS will administer the courses will include teacher workdays, early release days and one-on-one “coaching” meetings.

MCPS will also run the courses online and on several days during the summer break.

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Yann Ranaivo covers local government and politics in the New River Valley, including Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Radford and Montgomery County.

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