Plano ISD is hoping to simplify the certification process for prospective teachers.

During a Jan. 24 work session, PISD board of trustees discussed the Pathway for Teacher Certification program, an initiative that seeks to aid the recruitment and retention of educators in the district.

According to PISD Certification Officer Sherri Eppler, the program makes use of an already existing partnership between Teachworthy, an alternative teaching certification program, and Indiana Wesleyan University, an online university.

“The main reason we really like this program is the influence we have over the experience that our candidates have,” Eppler said. “We get to help them get their degree, get certified and help them be a great teacher in Plano for our students.”

The same program is currently being used by Forney ISD and has several benefits, Eppler said. PISD plans to take the program and tweak it so it aligns with the goals and objectives of the district. This includes a better support system for teachers, more resources and an overall smoother transition from student to teacher.

According to PISD Human Resources Coordinator Andrea Hendrickson, the program will offer four pathways to certification.

Foundation Track
  • Current PISD support staff or substitutes who need to complete a degree and earn teacher certification.
  • This results in a Bachelor of Science and TX Certification in 1-2 and a half years.
Certification Seeking
  • Current PISD support staff who have a degree and need to become teacher certified.
  • This results in TX Certification and 15 hours toward Master’s degree.
Districts of Innovation Support
  • PISD employees hired under a DOI waiver who need support in pedagogy and instruction.
  • This results in capacity building professional development for these full-time staff members.
Future teacher
  • Current PISD high school seniors who desire a career in education.
  • This results in PISD employment as support staff while working toward a degree and certification.
Hendrickson said funds for the program will be allotted from the existing teacher salaries budget, meaning the program will be “budget-friendly” and will not cost the district any additional funds.

According to Assistant Superintendent for Employee Services Jed Reed, the idea to seek an alternative certification program came following teacher shortages, most of which stemmed from COVID-19.

“In the post-covid world, recruitment and finding talented instructors and support staff has been extremely challenging,” Reed said. “Not only in PISD but across the state of Texas and across the United States.”

As of Jan. 4, 2023, PISD had 173 teaching vacancies. 125 of those vacancies were filled with long-term substitute teachers, many of whom were retired teachers, Eppler said.

As a result of partnering with IWU, individuals who do not wish to teach but want to attend college can qualify for benefits from the program. Per Reed, any resident within PISD, including those with no children in the district, may enroll in classes at IWU and qualify for reduced course fees.

“This is one of the more innovative programs,” Reed said. “On the surface, it’s an unbelievable deal.”

Hendrickson said PISD hopes to launch the program in July.