The Camden Education Fund and Camden U, a nonprofit hybrid college, today announced a new partnership designed to give Camden’s paraprofessionals the opportunity to earn teaching certifications and become eligible for full-time teaching positions. The “Teacher Pathway” program is available to all Camden paraprofessionals interested in earning their teaching certifications, including those who have not attended college, those who have associate’s degrees, and those who have bachelor’s degrees. The path to certification is customized for each student.
“We are thrilled to partner with Camden U to create the opportunity for Camden’s paraprofessionals to earn their teaching certifications. As the state grapples with teacher shortages, we are reminded that some of the strongest talent is already in our schools. The Teacher Pathway program gives paraprofessionals, many of whom have many years of experience, the opportunity to lead a classroom of their own,” said Naeha Dean, executive director of the Camden Education Fund. “We are grateful to Camden U for making this project possible.”
Through Teacher Pathway, Camden U will provide asynchronous college courses and academic support to paraprofessionals. Paraprofessionals will be supported in earning their bachelor’s degree, as necessary, and in completing teaching certification requirements, including the Praxis exam. Camden U will offer ongoing, one-on-one counseling throughout the process. Camden Education Fund has committed $150,000 in grant funding to support the Teacher Pathway program, enabling Camden U to recruit, enroll, and support Camden paraprofessionals throughout the process.
Already, Camden U has enrolled its first cohort of Teacher Pathway candidates. The cohort includes paraprofessionals from schools across the Camden City School District, including Camden High School, Yorkship Elementary School, Davis Family School, Cooper’s Poynt Family School, and Catto Family School. The candidates range in experience from novice educators to paraprofessionals with over two decades of service in the Camden City School District.
“Many Camden City classrooms already have tremendous educators in place, but often these individuals are blocked from becoming certified teachers due to the arduous and costly nature of the NJ certification process,” said Khary Golden, Executive Director of Camden U. “The Teacher Pathway program is designed to take the guesswork out of the certification process, and through the generous support of the Camden Education Fund, we are now able to cover all associated costs of this process, including virtual Praxis prep, testing and certification fees, and any necessary tuition for coursework,” he continued.
The Teacher Pathway program has been met with overwhelming interest from Camden’s paraprofessional community. Its first student is Tashia Dotson, a paraprofessional at Forest Hill Elementary School and lifelong Camden resident.
“The Teacher Pathway program is helping me take the next step in my career as an educator, and it feels good to get recognized for what we bring to the table,” said Dotson. Paraprofessionals, she added, “are the glue that holds learning communities together.”
Camden U courses and support are offered off-hours, asynchronously, or at candidate’s request, enabling all candidates in the Teacher Pathway program to work toward certification while continuing to serve as paraprofessionals in Camden’s schools.
Superintendent Katrina McCombs applauded the partnership.
“Recruiting and retaining the highest quality educators, school leaders, and support staff is critical to our students’ success, so it is imperative to ensure a great teacher is in every classroom. By partnering with Camden U and the Camden Education Fund, this effort will indeed come to fruition. We are glad for the collaboration and are excited that these efforts will benefit not only our paraprofessionals, but our young people as well,” said Superintendent McCombs.