Grant will help paraeducators become certified teachers

RICHLAND, Wash. – Area school districts will select 28 of their paraeducators to earn bachelor’s degrees in elementary education in two years at Washington State University Tri-Cities through an alternative route recently funded by a state grant.

The paraeducators will substitute competency-based in-classroom experience for certain courses, as approved by the university, and will take the remaining required courses on campus, said Judy Morrison, WSU Tri-Cities academic director of the College of Education.

“The state reported to us that there were hundreds of unfilled teaching positions this year and last year,” she said. “This program helps fill a need for an increasing demand for qualified teachers in the region.”

WSU Tri-Cities received a $784,000 grant from the state Professional Educator Standards Board. Combined with $8,000 state scholarships for each student and additional financial aid, this will fund the cost for 28 students for two years.

The paraeducators will be selected by the Pasco, Richland, Kennewick, Prosser and Grandview school districts. To qualify, a student must possess a transferable associate’s degree. After graduation, each will be required to teach in the state of Washington for two years.

“It’s a very supportive, community-driven type of program,” Morrison said. “The schools have seen these paraeducators in action, and they’re selecting people who are a part of the community – people who will stay and help it grow.”

“One of the best ways to ensure that our students see themselves in the faces of their teachers is to recruit and train teachers from our own community,” said Robin Hay, Pasco School District director of employee services.

“We look forward to helping them complete their teaching programs and becoming candidates for teaching jobs in the future,” said Doug Christensen, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Kennewick School District.

Morrison said the goal is to continue the program in years ahead.

“The grant will fund us for two years, but our goal is to have it continue and have a whole new cohort come in when this cohort of 28 is done,” she said.


Judy Morrison, WSU Tri-Cities College of Education, 509-372-7176,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,