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17 East Zone teachers graduate from AlternativeLee

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Jul 20, 2021


Seventeen of the 41 teachers who recently graduated from the 2021 AlternativeLee Certified Program are from the East Zone.

The program is offered to career changers and non-education majors who are then required to move from a temporary to a professional certificate within their first three years in the classroom.

The AlternativeLee Certified program simplifies the process by allowing these new teachers a way to meet state requirements through job-embedded tasks that support their effectiveness in the classroom.

The district offers the program at no cost to qualifying teachers and they agree to teach in the district for three years after graduating.

The bulk of the teachers, five, are from Varsity Lakes Middle School, four at Lehigh Acres Middle School, three at Veterans Park Academy for the Arts, two at East Lee County High School and one from Harns Marsh Elementary School, Harns Marsh Middle School and Mirror Lakes Elementary School.

“We are really proud of this cohort of teachers for fulfilling all coursework requirements for professional certification,” Chief of Human Resources Dr. Angela Pruitt said in a prepared statement. “We want to recognize their dedication and perseverance, especially during the challenges presented to them this year. The Human Resources Division is excited to continue to offer this program to career-changers and temporarily certified teachers who, with this support, will remain in the district and continue to positively impact student success. Congratulations!”

Professional Development Coordinator Kindra Pinnace said the AlternativeLee Certified Program is the district’s pathway to professional certification.

“We have so many teachers that are career changers and they need additional coursework to become professionally certified,” she said.

With the district seeing many career changers come through its doors they know it’s becoming a bigger opportunity for growth.

“Some of our schools are closing their College of Education. Where do we go to get people who can teach our students? We are having to reconsider and reimagine how we approach filling vacancies,” Pinnace said. “It’s hard to find educators in general. We know because of the nature of things. More and more are starting to be career changers from different walks of life and different ages.”

She said the Department of Professional Development is invested very seriously and heavily in recruitment and retention of educators.

“We recognize the great need. The shortage is national,” Pinnace said. “We don’t have enough teachers. Many are coming to the profession without an education background.”

In 2019 AlternativeLee Certified Program began being offered at no cost to teachers to ensure they have an opportunity to obtain that professional certification.

The teacher has to be recommended by an administrator who submits their name to the district before it is reviewed and gone through a prescreening, screening and then application process. With the program taking a little bit of time to complete, Pinnace said they try to catch people in their second year of their temporary certification to make sure they have enough time to meet all of their requirements.

To graduate from the program, career change teachers have certain coursework to complete, such as lesson planning, classroom management, interacting with parents and data assessment. She said they have a series of 20 tasks the teachers have to complete in addition to reading endorsement work.

The practice portion happens with the teachers in the classroom, she said. Although it is rigorous to get through, it allows them to see what kind of impact they have on their students.

“Teachers in the classrooms are learning as they go, which is beneficial to the students,” Pinnace said.

The reading endorsement work is to ensure that everyone in the program knows how to teach students to read well, Pinnace said.

“Participants usually have the school year to work through all of that, so they can meet those state requirements,” she said.

There may also be testing requirements separate from the district’s program to complete the certification. Resources are provided to the teachers who need to complete the tests to become professionally certified.

“I thought a strength of the program was how it allowed me to collaborate and learn more from my mentor,” graduate Sarah Steinmann said in a prepared statement. “Any questions that I had, they clarified them. The program also allowed me to think about what I am doing in the classroom and how to improve. The cost, flexibility, and having a mentor in my school made the AlternativeLee Certified Program a great option.”

Since the program was relaunched in 2019, 52 participants have graduated and obtained their professional certification. Pinnace said the hope is the expand the program, so teachers in the district that need the coursework have the opportunity to access it through the district’s pathway. An additional hope is to have a graduation ceremony in the future because it is an accomplishment worthy of celebration, Pinnace said.

“It’s been very successful. We found the need is so great. We offer this free of charge to the participants. Sometimes that is a barrier,” she said.

In addition to helping with the cost, teachers also have a great flexibility through the program, as it is offered online, giving them an opportunity to do it on their own time.

“The participants really benefit from the opportunity,” she said.