Flint, MI— Flint Community Schools has launched a non-traditional teacher certification program to fill teaching gaps and to recruit and retain talent in the district. 

The alternative teaching certification program, internally known as Grow Your Own, is approaching its first-year anniversary. The program offers future educators the chance to gain teaching experience while they work towards earning their teaching certificate. 

“There is a nationwide teachers shortage. Every school district is experiencing [difficulty] obtaining great talent because individuals are just not pursuing education in the numbers that they have in the past,” Cassandra Washington, executive director of human resources for Flint Schools, said. 

Those who enroll in the program must have completed at least 60 credit hours in any major from an accredited college or university. 

“The individual also has to be eligible to be hired directly into the district,” Washington said. 

Guest teachers are placed in vacant positions that align with their major or studies.

“For instance, if they are studying music or have received credits from a music program and we have music vacancy, the individual is placed in the music vacancy and becomes the teacher of record,” Washington said. 

Once on board, there are two “milestones” that need to be met. First, they must work 60 consecutive days in their guest teacher assignment without missing work. During this time, they earn $125 per day. 

“On the 61st day of consecutive service, guest teachers then advance to the teacher salary schedule and they are paid according to their current degree level,” Washington said. 

The second milestone is receiving their teaching certificate. 

“They have six months from the date of their hire to enroll in an approved program where they can pursue their teaching certification,” Washington said. 

Once enrolled, guest teachers have three years to complete their degree and obtain the certification. Flint School offers up to $10,000 tuition reimbursement per year to help them pay for their education. 

After graduation, they must commit to teaching at Flint Schools for three years.  

For the 2019-2020 school year, the district received 23 applications for the Grow Your Own program. This year, six new applicants applied. 

Kinya Williams was one of the first guest teachers to go through the program. She had been working as a special needs paraprofessional for Flint Schools but decided she wanted to earn her teaching degree. 

“When I started the program, I had an associate degree in early childhood development and general studies. I am in college full-time now,” Williams said. 

She said being in school while teaching is challenging but is glad to have the support of the district and co-workers. 

“There is tremendous support around ensuring the success of individuals in this program, from orientation and induction to having a mentor teacher the entire time,” Washington said. 

Williams’ advice to future guest teachers? “You can do it,” she said. 

Those interested in applying can contact the district’s main office at 810-760-1000 or email Cassandra Washington at cwashington@flintschools.org to learn more about the application process.

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...