The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many educators in Kentucky, and across the nation, to retire early or change professions.
This new collaboration between WKU and Somerset Community College is intended encourage more college students to choose teaching as a career.
“This is a specific four-year degree with their teaching credential, with a bachelor’s, that allows them to go into the teaching field," said Melissa Dalton, Somerset Community College Teacher Education Program Coordinator. "There is specific coursework, specific entrance exams and exit exams that they must complete prior to getting their teaching certificate.”
Dalton said being able to do all the coursework for the bachelor's degree in the Somerset region is especially attractive to those who work and have families in the area and can't easily move to finish their four-year degree.
“Mainly I’m just very excited that we’re able to offer this to our community because within our community we have great students and great teachers and a great educational system," said Dalton. "So, this provides opportunity for people locally and regionally to stay here and finish here.”
The program is in collaboration with the University Center of Southern Kentucky, a consortium of educational institutions.
Students can begin the "2+2 elementary education degree" in Fall 2022, with courses offered in the Lake Cumberland region, including the SCC Somerset and Laurel campuses, as well as four SCC centers in Casey, Clinton, McCreary, and Russell counties. Courses will be a combination of in-person and hybrid formats.
Graduates will be certified teachers for preschool therough 5th grade.
“This is an exciting opportunity for students in southeastern Kentucky, and it shows what colleges and universities can do when a need exists and the community supports the outcome,” said Carey Castle, SCC President. “The ability for students to get their elementary education bachelor’s degree is something this area needs desperately, so this agreement makes a lot of sense.”
Sue Keesey, Director of WKU’s School of Teacher Education, said there is a significant teacher shortage throughout Kentucky and many schools are in desperate need of qualified full-time teachers, especially within the Somerset-Lake Cumberland region.
“Adding elementary education to the list of degree completion programs in the region allows us to fill a significant educational need and respond to the teacher shortage facing many rural communities,” said Keesey.
WKU President Timothy C. Caboni said WKU embraces students learning from a distance and understands the importance of addressing the needs of regional communities.
“We must work with our key stakeholders to reimagine possibilities and we must aggressively provide solutions,” said Caboni. “This program provides a clear example of how strong partnerships benefit our students, our communities, and our Commonwealth.”
With the addition of elementary education, WKU now offers four degree completion programs in the Somerset region through a partnership with the University Center of Southern Kentucky. Two years ago, agreements were signed offering sociology, criminology and management.