Signing day launches new teacher apprenticeship program

· 3 min read

Signing day launches new teacher apprenticeship program

Apprentices sign certificates confirming their commitment to the Teacher Apprenticeship Program at UNL and LPS; photo by Brent Hardin, Lincoln Public Schools
Apprentices sign certificates confirming their commitment to the Teacher Apprenticeship Program at UNL and LPS; photo by Brent Hardin, Lincoln Public Schools

The College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln held a signing day ceremony April 11 at the Barkley Memorial Center to celebrate the start of a new partnership with Lincoln Public Schools as part of the Nebraska Department of Education’s Teacher Apprenticeship Program.

Seven of the eight individuals who will begin the apprenticeship program at UNL this summer were present to sign certificates acknowledging their commitment to the program, which will prepare them to become special education teachers. Nebraska Commissioner of Education Brian Maher shared remarks at the event, along with Paul Gausman, LPS superintendent; Nick Pace, acting dean of the college; and Sue Kemp, professor of practice in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders.

Two of the apprentices also spoke, including Abbey Traynowicz, who currently serves as the executive secretary at Lincoln Southwest High School. She noted that part of her inspiration for joining the apprenticeship program was watching the unified program develop at Lincoln Southwest.

“Seeing the way that students and teachers make a difference in the lives of our special education population, I just want to be a bigger part of that,” Traynowicz said. “I want to make a difference in those students’ lives. I also see the way the special education population makes a difference in the students’ and teachers’ lives, and I want to learn from them, also. This was just an awesome opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”

The UNL-LPS partnership was one of three collaborations chosen by NDE to receive funding for the apprenticeship program for “Building the Special Education Teacher Pipeline.” This is a structured, on-the-job learning model to prepare individuals for successful careers as special education teachers. Paraeducators who have earned a bachelor’s degree will complete a year-long training program in which they will work to obtain an endorsement in special education.

“This group of eight really dynamic staff members in para roles, as interventionists and secretaries, are really going to be great teachers,” Kemp said. “They have the experience. They’ve been in the schools. They are committed to this group of students, and I am so excited to work with them over this next year to see the teachers that they develop into.”

Students in the CEHS program will attend classes at UNL beginning this summer to learn academic and behavioral foundational skills necessary to be a successful teacher. During the 2024-25 school year, they will demonstrate skill competencies that are outlined in the NDE clinical evaluation, Council for Exceptional Children and InTASC standards while working in classrooms with a cooperating teacher. In addition, students will attend weekly seminar classes at UNL to further connect the academic and behavior content to their classroom experiences.

“We are thrilled to partner with LPS on this innovative program to grow new teachers,” Pace said. “Everyone who has spent time in classrooms knows how important skilled paraeducators are to supporting teachers and students. This program puts paraeducators on an exciting new path to becoming special education teachers. The program is a great example of what’s possible when we have creative, dedicated people working together — NDE, LPS and UNL — to address the needs of our schools. We think what we’re learning through this project can be a model to expand elsewhere in Nebraska.”

Kemp noted that while the initial apprenticeship group at UNL focuses on individuals who have already earned their bachelor’s degrees, the hope is that future cohorts will include those who have an associate’s degree and will result in them earning both a bachelor’s degree and a special education endorsement through the program.

Recent News