The Director of Teach for America’s Appalachian Region says the program could help West Virginia fill some of the more than 600 classrooms that do not have certified teachers in them each year.

Will Nash says the program, which is described as a type of ‘domestic Peace Corps,’ is already in place in three dozen other states.

“We partner with districts to channel some of the very best and brightest college grads and young professionals into teaching when they might have otherwise gone into something else,” Nash said.

It’s designed to be an alternative to the traditional teacher certification program, the kind of option recommended in the Governor’s Education Efficiency Audit which is serving as a reference for those making education reform proposals during this year’s Regular Legislative Session.

However, leaders of two unions for teachers in West Virginia, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, have said they oppose such “alternative certification” programs.

They say options like Teach for America would lower standards and hurt teacher quality.

To dispute those claims, Nash cites a number of independent studies focused on the people who are part of Teach for America.  “You see that our teachers do just as well as, if not better than, traditionally certified teachers,” he said.

“Teach for America has studied what our most successful teachers do and then we’ve isolated the skills and the knowledge and the mindsets that we want people coming to the profession with so that we can start ahead of the curve.”

Those who sign up for Teach for America commit to at least two years of teaching in rural areas to help address teacher shortages.

“For the majority of them, that commitment becomes a lifelong commitment,” Nash said.  “Many of them stay in education and almost all of them remain committed to education, education reform and providing kids in low income areas with the type of education they deserve.”

Nash says, across the country, more than 10,000 teachers have been trained and are teaching as part of the program.

If the Legislature signs off on the program’s implementation in the Mountain State, Nash says the goal would be to start next year with 25 Teach for America teachers in a handful of counties, most likely those closest to Kentucky where Teach for America already exists.

He says that number would grow in future years but, he admits, Teach for America is “not a silver bullet” to fix all of West Virginia’s education issues.

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  • NorthernWVman

    "They say options like Teach for America would lower standards and hurt teacher quality."

    YET they fight for the teaqcher that does a very poor job and is on the brink of being canned. So tell me who is really at fault for teacher quality?

    Don't get me wrong I full heartedly support our teachers if they are good, I say the far majority are fantastic teachers and should be compensated for that. I have only met a few very low quality teachers in my life. Throwing more money for pay raises is not the answer. Most teachers I have talked to say their biggest challenge is the lack of parental involvement.

  • MaryL

    I'm sick of hearing how people think throwing more money at a problem will suddenly fix it. Teachers get low pay for a reason, they are not perceived as high 'producers'. Why? Because they're turning out kids who can't read. In the business world, if you don't produce, you're on the street kicking stones. The REAL problem is motivation. What motivated a person to become a teacher? If you ask them, they will not say for the money. What motivates a kid to want to learn to read? Self esteem and the desire to improve his situation and status in society. This takes leadership. Teachers aren't trained as leaders, leaders inspire and help a kid see his potential and imagine his future. If he's not getting that inspiration from his parents NOR his teachers, he ends up getting 'promoted' through the system until he finally graduates and can contribute nothing to society and ends up living on entitlements.

  • JimJim

    "Those who sign up for Teach for America commit to at least two years of teaching in rural areas to help address teacher shortages." TEACHER SHORTAGE. Wow, low pay, how could a teacher shortage happen.

  • Linda

    Why would that be any better than what we have now. Those people don't have a degree in education. They will stick around for 2 years then leave. I don't get it.

  • J. Stanton

    I did not realize that there is such a shortage of certified teachers in the state. That being said, the College of Education at West Liberty University ( continues to produce West Virginia certified teachers and offers both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in education.

  • wirerowe

    If you ask any educator how do you improve education, they will say more money. If you ask any educator what is the maximum amount of money they need, they either will not understand the question or the concept of a maximum.

    • bandit1426

      Wirerowe, I agree that the teachers need more money. While Berkeley and Jefferson here in the panhandle off a pretty good package, a lot of people still border jump to Loudoun County in VA. I think what you mean by them not giving an answer isn't on pay, its more on support money. A lot of classrooms do not have the proper resources to teach kids, and the school system leaves it to the teacher to make up that difference out of personal monies. They don't give an answer to that question because they can't. The supplies are expensive, prices vary from classroom to classroom. A proper support system would be nice too. Rather than everyone acting like they don't want to offend the next person, maybe they should just try and do their job.

    • Mint man

      I don't know what educators you talk to, but I talk to them daily and that is NOT what we talk about. You are uttering nonsense. Certainly to compete with neighboring states to attract the best teachers we need to pay our teachers more. But that is NOT what they think will improve education. Dumb talk!

  • Wvrefugee

    These folks are young people that cannot/could not get hired as regular teachers ! Having hired teachers for almost 10 years, the real problem with attracting qualified personnel is teacher pay!!