California transforming bus drivers into teachers

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Carol Elgin spent last Monday preparing a tiny classroom at Foulks Ranch Elementary School in Elk Grove for students.

She’s waited a long time to have her own class. Over the last six years, Elgin, 55, has been a substitute teacher and instructional assistant. Before that she spent 20 years in sales.

But she had always yearned to be a teacher.

Tuesday her dreams came true when the first group of sixth-grade students took their seats at the horseshoe-shaped table in the middle of her classroom.

“It’s exciting,” said Elgin, a teaching intern. “I’m in the classroom.”

The California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program helped to make her dream a reality. Elgin is one of hundreds of classified employees – generally bus drivers, clerks, yard supervisors and instructional assistants – across California who are getting financial and instructional support to help them earn a teaching credential.

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The $20 million grant program was approved by state legislators in 2016 to combat California’s teacher shortage. The grants pay $4,000 annually per participant for up to five years to help them complete a bachelor’s degree and earn a teaching credential.

Elk Grove Unified actually signed 21 people up for the program, but one – a substitute teacher is not subsidized by the grant. The other members of the cohort include a yard supervisor, a secretary and 18 paraeducators, more commonly known as instructional assistants.

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