The ink will barely be dry on the memorandums of understanding signed by South Georgia State College (SGSC), Coffee County and Ware County school districts before the inaugural Bachelor of Science in Elementary/Special Education program begins fall semester of 2019.
During the week of July 8, representatives from SGSC and both partner school systems gathered on the Douglas and Waycross campuses to enter into an agreement showing their commitment to support this newly accredited program. Students will be prepared to receive a degree and certification in elementary and special education, and qualify for the addition of a reading endorsement to their certificate at the conclusion of the program.
“As we sign these memorandums of understanding, we are officially partnering with Coffee and Ware county school districts to help train future teachers through a robust teacher education curriculum with trained educators at SGSC and supervised clinical experiences in elementary classrooms in the county schools,” explained Dr. Ingrid Thompson-Sellers, SGSC president. “We are fortunate to be working with the University of North Georgia (UNG) on the design and development of the program and realize this type of model for teacher preparation is highly dependent on solid working relationships with the local schools and teachers.”
The program features high academic standards and a distinctive characteristic of on-campus classes along with intensive levels of clinical experiences in public school classrooms prior to internships. After months of development, SGSC and UNG, both member schools of the University System of Georgia, signed a memorandum of understanding in November of 2018. Later, in June of 2019, SGSC received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accrediting body to officially begin the program. SGSC and the partner school systems are working to identify mentor teachers and to develop strategies for engagement. The first cohort of students will begin this upcoming fall semester.
“There will always be a need for great teachers. Regardless of temporary economic conditions, hiring practices, budget cuts or any other factors that impact the education system, the need for teachers is timeless and universal,” shared Dr. Kit Carson, chair of SGSC’s teacher education program. “This is a unique, special program. Research on teacher preparation indicates the amount of supervised clinical experience a teacher candidate receives is predictive of their success in the classroom, as well as their retention in the profession. Ours is a true ‘grow your own’ teacher preparation program.”
The superintendents from both systems were on hand to take part in the signings. Dr. Morris Leis, superintendent of Coffee County Schools, expresses his thoughts on the program, “The addition of a Bachelor’s Degree in both Early Childhood/Special Education will improve educational outcomes for years to come in Coffee County. Our young people who have been interested in becoming a teacher have always had to travel outside of Douglas and Coffee County to earn a degree in education. Now they will be able to receive a teaching degree right here in Douglas thanks to South Georgia State College. This new program will benefit our entire region for years to come. South Georgia State College is to be commended for their efforts in bringing this program to Douglas and we look forward to partnering with Dr. Sellers and her staff in this important work.”
Superintendent Bert Smith of Ware County School District adds, “The benefit of entering into this partnership is that we will have the opportunity to ‘grow our own’ employees to help fill open elementary education positions and decrease the teacher shortage, the effects of which are being seen at the local, state and national levels. This program is unique in that its graduates will be well-prepared to begin their teaching careers due to the number of clinical practice hours required. The result we will see is an increase in teacher retention, as well."
Also present at the signing on the Douglas campus were Senator Tyler Harper from District 7 and Representative Dominic Lariccia, legislative representative for District 169. Sending a special congratulatory wish was Representative John Corbett for District 174.