Keller and Northwest ISDs launched programs this year for students and community members who are interested in becoming teachers in their districts.

Officials say these programs are a tool to help build a pipeline for hiring teachers in the future amid statewide concerns of staffing shortages. Earlier this year, the Texas Education Agency created a Teacher Vacancy Task Force to come up with a variety of solutions to what the agency described as significant staffing challenges.

KISD’s program, called Teachers of Tomorrow, provides its students with a document guaranteeing a priority interview, so when they graduate from college and earn their certifications, they have an automatic job interview with the district.

“It’s just another way of showing that we really want our homegrown kiddos that have gone through our school and are familiar with our district to come back and teach with us,” KISD Employee Engagement Coordinator Jennifer Love said.

This program applies to high school students as well as college students who graduated from KISD.

The district had more than 170 students who signed up to be a part of the first cohort in the Teachers of Tomorrow program. About 50 of these students are in college, Love said.

“Any student that wants to be a teacher can be in this program,” Love said. “They can choose to be in this program, and they don’t have to pay dues or anything. They can just be a part of it simply because they want to be a teacher.”

The program requires no funding from the district. However, Love said the district hopes to eventually offer a bonus to alumni returning to Keller to teach.

Students in the Teachers of Tomorrow program have support from Love and the program as they finish high school and go through college.

“We visit several times a year with them; we’ll have a reception,” Love said. “We’ll give them advice about how they can be an employee of our district, and then I will stay in touch with them as they go through their college career.”

The program also hosts receptions for those college students so they keep a close connection with KISD and Teachers of Tomorrow.

Keagan Ure, a recent graduate from Timber Creek High School, said the program makes her more excited to teach. It has eased her fears about getting a job after college.

“It’s really cool that they’re doing this because I’ve always enjoyed being a part of Keller ISD,” Ure said. “After getting the priority interview that I received, I’m kind of even more excited to finish college and start my teaching career.”

NISD has a similar new program called Grow Our Home, which helps students, paraprofessionals and community members work toward gaining teaching certifications and positions within the district.

The program works differently for students versus paraprofessionals and community members, according to Kimberly Barker, NISD assistant superintendent for human resources.

Paraprofessionals and community members have two pathways, according to Barker. They can go through an alternative certification program with iTeachTexas if they already have a bachelor’s degree, or they can go through Hartwell University in Dallas to gain their degree and certification, she said.

iTeachTexas is an online program that offers teaching certifications, its website states.

Hartwell University is a private school that offers an online program to obtain a degree in teaching, according to its website.

“Anyone that goes through these programs and completes them automatically receives an interview at one of our campuses,” Barker said.

As of July, the program had 17 people working through Hartwell University and seven working through the iTeachTexas alternative certification program.

Students who have participated in the teaching and learning pathways at their high schools automatically earn the Texas paraeducator certification. That certification allows them to work in NISD as a paraprofessional or a guest educator, Barker said.

Barker explained that with this new Grow Our Home program, the district is making an effort to stay in touch with students and eventually bring them back to the district.

The program had 39 students from across the district who participated in the teaching and learning pathway classes at their high schools in the 2021-22 school year, Barker said.

“Our goal was to create our own teaching force that wants to be in NISD who are already ingrained in our community,” Barker said.

Program basics

Here are highlights of the programs offered by Keller and Northwest ISDs.

Teachers of Tomorrow: This program is open to Keller ISD high school students or college students who graduated from KISD. Students are guaranteed a job interview with KISD once they have earned their degree and teaching certificate. To learn more, contact Jennifer Love at [email protected]

Grow Our Home: This program is open to Northwest ISD high school students as well as paraprofessionals and community members. It provides a pathway to earn a college degree and teaching certificate needed to work in NISD. To learn more, contact Kimberly Barker at [email protected]