A new Sonoma County school for teaching candidates started Tuesday, intended to fill a gaping statewide shortage of teachers, and it began as most first days of school do.
From the front of the room, Sarah Lundy, laid down the ground rules: Be respectful; use technology appropriately.
Then Lundy acknowledged that the 35 students had “complex lives” and if they needed to use their phones, feel free to step outside at any time.
They were, after all, adults — with families, jobs, responsibilities — all gathered, to become teachers themselves, at the inaugural class of the North Coast School of Education.
“I cannot wait to get started,” said Melanie Bourgeois, 41, of Rohnert Park. Like many in the class, she already works in education — in her case, as an emergency teaching intern — and seized on the new school as a way to move quickly toward getting a teaching credential.
The school was founded by the Sonoma County Office of Education, working with its counterpart in Tulare County, to help fill a pipeline of teachers that has run dry since the 2007 economic collapse, leaving districts around the state grasping for teachers. EdJoin.org, a popular education employment site, lists 382 vacancies in Sonoma County right now, many for teachers.
Its curriculum was designed to move its first students, once they have passed standardized state tests for teachers, into classrooms as paid interns by August, the start of the next school year. That’s far more quickly than traditional university teaching programs, whose students must first work as unpaid student teachers.
The school’s first cohort, who streamed from their jobs into the county Office of Education’s Skylane Boulevard boardroom at 5 p.m., will be prepared to enter the field as special education teachers.
“They need teachers desperately,” special education aide Carrie Weaver, 47, said of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District, where she works. The new school “can get me in the classroom immediately.”
Future students will also be able to earn credentials to teach single or multiple subjects in elementary and secondary schools.
As the students got settled Monday, “Teachers as Learners” was projected on a screen. Lundy, the director of teacher development, put on a blues song — “Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes, I feel so good” — and urged the crowded room of students to get comfortable, “so we can start to become a learning community together.”
The close quarters, she added, were “really good practice for what it’s like in a classroom.”
Josh Shroyer, 31, an instructional assistant who works with special needs students in Petaluma, said the school had promised him a job if he went through the program.
“If I can get through this in one piece, they’ll give me a class,” said Shroyer, of Santa Rosa. “That’s pretty cool.”
The teaching school has seven faculty members and its costs are being underwritten by the county education office. Tuition, after $1,000 for the curriculum materials, is $4,250 a year — considerably lower than the $12,000 a year and up charged at the Sonoma State University School of Education.
Reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.