ROANOKE, Va. – A new online program in Virginia is aiming to address teacher shortages across the Commonwealth.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, there are roughly 3,500 teacher vacancies across the Commonwealth. This month, education leaders gave approval for an online certification program they hope encourages more people to join the teaching profession.
The program is called iTeach and it offers an online path to getting teacher certification.
Andrew Rozell is the President of iTeach. He says he’s excited to start working with different counties who have chosen to partner with the program.
“We know that we’re not going to solve it on our own but we want to be a legitimate, highly rigorous, highly effective option for new teachers,” Rozell said.
iTeach would allow teachers to get into the classroom on a provisional license and work toward their full license in an online pathway costing around $3,000.
Roanoke County Public Schools is just one of the districts in Southwest Virginia partnering with iTeach. Jim Bradshaw is the Director of Human Relations in the district.
“At the end of the day, if we can make it easier for our teachers or like I said our potential teachers to get licensed, then it’s better for our students and our community,” Bradshaw.
Two of the main differences between iTeach and the more traditional way of getting licensed is time and money.
iTeach defers about 90% of the program costs until a candidate is hired as a teacher.
Candidates pay an initial fee of $250 to start the coursework, and then defer the remainder of program costs interest-free until they are hired as teachers. Monthly payment plans begin after a candidate is hired as a teacher. The total cost of the program is $3,050.
The traditional route to licensure, an education degree, costs about $13,000 on average at Virginia institutions for mandatory fees, and about $25,112 including boarding for in-state students, according to the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia.
“It’s going to have a lot less burden on them as they’re trying to pay for these courses. They can do them online or at their own leisure which means they can still teach for us. Again, I just think it’s going to be a win win,” Bradshaw said.
Teacher unions across the Commonwealth don’t think iTeach is the solution.
Dorothy Carter with UniServ which works alongside the Virginia Education Association says it’s all about money.
“I think if we raised the pay scale enough, some of those people who left would come back,” Carter said. “I want someone who knows the craft. I want somebody who knows their job. I want somebody with experience that I can depend on.”
The program is geared more towards people who are thinking of changing career paths to one in education.
“Over the last 20 years, iTeach has impacted over 20,000 fully licensed teachers. That’s not just a number to me. If you think through it, how many kids each of those 20,000 individuals would have taught,” Rozell said.