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West Virginia School Superintendent Clayton Burch Visiting Wheeling Park’s Beyond Education Club

Photo courtesy W.Va. Governor’s Office - West Virginia State School Superintendent Clayton Burch

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch is coming to Ohio County today to address students wanting to be future teachers in the state, and maybe convince some others to become educators.

At 8 a.m., Burch will talk to students participating in Wheeling Park High School’s Beyond Education Club — a program that seeks to inspire students to become future educators. A particular goal of the program is to encourage minority students toward teaching careers, according to school officials.

The Beyond Education club is very similar to the state’s new “Grow Your Own” initiative, which was created to address an increasing teacher shortage in West Virginia and put students on the fast track toward teaching careers.

Participating students can earn up to 22 college credit hours toward a teaching degree while still in high school, while also getting valuable in-classroom teaching opportunities. Ohio County Schools was among 28 school districts selected to participate in “Grow Your Own” based on the success it already has had with its own “Beyond Education” program.

The district is partnering with West Liberty University to provide teaching education opportunities for high school students.

Burch is presently touring schools throughout West Virginia to tout the “Grow Your Own” program. Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones recently told board of education members the Beyond Education program began three years ago..

“We did this for two reasons,” he said. “Number one, we have a shortage of teachers. And number two, we have a real shortage of diverse teachers.”

The Beyond Education program is mostly minority student based, “but others are involved as well,” according to Jones. The first two years of the program were hampered by COVID, but this year students were able to visit the education programs at WLU, Bethany College and West Virginia University.

Nicole Ennis, interim dean of the WLU College of Education and Human Performance, and Kathy Monteroso, interim provost at the school, also addressed board members.

Ennis explained “Grow Your Own” creates a career pathway for those wanting to be educators, and permits highest to earn dual college credit for selected classes in high school.

“The students who select this pathway will essentially finish their first year of their college experience during their last year of high school,” she said. “They will come to us with a full year of dual credit.”

The West Virginia Department of Education has obtained grants to cover the first round of tuition costs for the high school students participating in Grow Your Own, and they are working on obtaining grant money to cover the student’s initial year at college, according to Ennis.

“The goal would be a fully-funded degree in teaching,” she said.

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