School Superintendent Beam Explains the “Grow your Own” Initiative
Terrence Beam, Pocahontas County School Superintendent, recently sat down with us to explain the new WV Department of Education’s pilot program called the “Grow Your Own” Initiative which the Pocahontas County Schools has been selected to participate in.
“We’re going to talk a little bit today about a new initiative that has been set forth by the West Virginia Department of Education,” said Beam. “And it’s called the ‘Grow Your Own Initiative.’ As everyone knows, there is a major shortage of teachers nationwide. It certainly is not germane to Pocahontas County. this program will allow us to recruit Juniors and Seniors in high school to take college courses if they are interested in becoming teachers, It will give them an opportunity to get a leg up on their education, and take some of their college courses as juniors and Seniors (in high school.) If they take those courses as well as a couple of AP (advanced placement) courses that they would need to take, when they graduate from Pocahontas County high School, they would have actually completed their Freshman year of college. Then, when they go on campus – and this would be working with Glenville State college and possibly others, but Glenville State College will be our main partner (in this) – they would go on campus as Sophomores. They would spend two years on campus, going to clad and learning as much as they can as Sophomores and Juniors. Then their final year, or senior year, they can actually be hired into a school system, hopefully Pocahontas County, as a Teacher in Residency Teacher, not for a semester, but for an entire year. This will allow them to get on-job training, giving them an opportunity to obtain a job here at home. It’s why it is called ‘Grow your Own.’”
“It’s a chance for us to improve the number of educators we have in our county, because we are losing so many to attrition and retirement. And, it gives parents an opportunity to keep their kids closer to home, and it is going to be very friendly financially because the cost of it is going to be better. Now, in March, I will be going to Charleston with Jeff Hunter, representative from Glenville State College, and we will be receiving two-days training on this program. And, at that time I will be able to share with the Board (of Education) and more details about it.”
“But, basically that’s it. Kids can start as (high school) Juniors. Thay can take two education courses and AP classes, and as Seniors, they could take two education courses and AP courses and get a year of college done while they are in high school.”
“And, what I want to do when we get this off the ground, is meet not just with those students, but with those parents and explain the program to them, because kids that age don’t think about being teachers. They don’t think about anything except high school, and that is what they should think about. The parents might want to hear about this opportunity to keep their kids closer to home and kind of feed them in that direction. Now, this doesn’t commit those kids to become teachers, but if they take those courses and choose to become teachers, then they have a leg-up on everyone else going into the process.”
“And, we have to train some of our own high school teachers to instruct those students as Juniors and Seniors, obviously. The other thing is, as this program progresses, they are considering dropping it down to Freshman and Sophomores, allowing them to take one class per year towards that. Now, Freshmen certainly don’t have any idea if they are going to be teachers of not. But, it doesn’t hurt the academically superior students to take one course as a Freshman – it is a college prep class. We’ve got some very sharp kids who would be capable of handling something like that. They wouldn’t have to take it as Freshman or sophomores, but they would have the opportunity if they chose to.”
“But, there is still a lot to be discussed about this. This just came out about a month ago. They (WV Department of Education) asked for volunteers to be a part of this pilot program, and eighteen of us signed up for it within fifteen minutes because we are all struggling to find teachers. We’re being asked all the time ‘what are you doing to get teachers in Pocahontas County.’ Well, this is what we are trying to do next – is to recruit our own, grow our own teachers to serve in our schools, because teachers from here and work here, stay here. The ones we hire from outside of our county or outside our state, very rarely stay very long.. We need our own people!”