TUCSON, Ariz. — A fast-track program to get more teachers into classrooms. Pathways to Teaching is providing local teachers a way to earn their bachelor's in elementary education to get them into school districts that need them most.
“I knew I wanted to go back to school, finish up. I wanted to actually be a certified teacher. But I really didn't want to go to work and have to go to school afterward. And this program presented itself, and it was like a no-brainer. Your school paid for and a monthly stipend,” said Suzanne Mendoza, a Pathways Inaugural Cohort graduate.
Pathways is a partnership between the University of Arizona and the Sunnyside School District.
“Many districts are in need of teachers, but Sunnyside needed teachers. We have a long-standing relationship. It was easy to work on the program with them,” said Marcy Wood, the director of Pathways.
Wood says her student teachers have existing ties with the Sunnyside School District.
Already a long-term substitute teacher within Sunnyside, Mendoza was drawn to the program because of its accelerated path, but also because of the $1,000 per month stipend student teachers receive while completing the program.
“The purpose is you’re doing this program full-time, you’re not doing any other work,” said Wood.
Alleviating the stress of having to hold down a job and going to school full-time.
“Well, I knew I could do both. I have a wonderful support at home. However, just having to do it all, I'd rather really focus on the education part. I'd rather really focus on learning, learning what I have to do to become the best teacher I can be in the classroom,” said Mendoza.
“I already knew I was going to have to fulfill student teaching in the classroom. And at some point, I was going to have to put my son in daycare, and I wasn't working at the time, and it was a one-income household. So right away, I was like I saw that. And I figured I could use that money to get my son into daycare so that I can finish my degree. And that's exactly what I used it for,” said Karina Guevara, a Pathways Inaugural Cohort graduate.
Karina Guevara attended Sunnyside Elementary School as a kid and her mother teaches there now. As a single mother herself, Guevara says pathways opened up opportunities for her to succeed while obtaining her degree.
“I’ve been wanting to be an Elementary school teacher since I was in elementary. I was inspired at Los Ranchitos.” “It’s kind of gone full circle for you.” “Yes, it has. And now I'm excited, too, because now I have a son who's going to hopefully see I had the same experience that I did growing up. And just appreciating education,” said Guevara.
Pathways is an alternative program not like many that are operating across the country. It’s one that took Wood years to officially get off the ground, modeling after the program she completed to get her own teaching certificate.
“So this program has really been a dream of mine. The students will tell you that it’s one of their dreams come true, but they are my dream come true. This has been a passion project for a long time. A lot of it had to do with the relationship we had with the district and the district’s real interest, along with the district’s need for teachers. I mean, that's not unique to Sunny Side in any way,” said Wood.
Sunnyside was Pathways’ pilot, and it's gotten the attention of many other Arizona school districts. With the current cohort in progress now, Wood says there are teachers from Douglas, Nogales, and Santa Cruz. Next year, student teachers from Casa Grande, Altar Valley, Oracle, and Sierra Vista will add to Pathways’ roster.
“We’re open to working with any district, we can work with any number of students. We’ve figured out a model where if there’s a school district that has a talented paraprofessional who wants to be a teacher, they need teachers. They come to us, we put together the package that makes that work,” said Wood.
Mendoza and Guevara have teaching positions waiting for them within the Sunnyside School District at the start of the new school year.