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WCU School of Education receives 2021 Governor’s Awards

The WCU School of Education received two Governor’s Awards during a virtual ceremony March 26 hosted by the Mississippi Association of Partners in Education (MAPE). The annual MAPE gathering recognizes school-community partnerships that have produced outstanding results for K-12 students in Mississippi.

WCU was honored with a University Level award and a Pandemic Partnership Response award. Both recognized the School of Education’s “Alternate Route” program, which tackles Mississippi’s teacher shortage by providing classes to help people who already have bachelor’s degrees earn teaching certificates – both through partnerships with K-12 school districts and outreach to individual students.

Key to the program’s success is making it more accessible to more people.

“We decided that sometimes it’s a deterrent when a university is not near a community or not near the people who would like to attend. The difference in Alternate Route is we come to you. We actually take the instructors and the program to interested students,” said Dr. Teresa Poole, dean of the WCU School of Education.

“We are now seeing an increase in teachers and that’s our main focus. We want to make sure that we have an effective teacher in every classroom.”

Dr. Ben Burnett, WCU executive vice president, said a record 450 students enrolled in the Alternate Route program this past summer.

“And this fall, we had 265 Alternate Route interns across the state of Mississippi that are first-year teachers doing their internship with us. That’s 265 teachers we put into the school system just this fall, and we have people continuing to come through the program this year,” Burnett said.

“These Governor’s Awards would not have been possible without our partners in school districts throughout the state. We are grateful for their support.”

The Alternate Route program is one of several WCU School of Education initiatives helping to address Mississippi’s teacher shortage through partnerships and innovative outreach.