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CCISD RISE interns and new teachers attend training

Cove Leader-Press

Approximately 60-plus new teachers and interns filled the room at the Copperas Cove Independent School District’s District Training Facility located next to Bulldawg Stadium Tuesday evening for a one-hour training on assessments. 
About 19 of those individuals are the district’s new RISE interns who are intern teachers that were former paraprofessionals/aides, who are obtaining college credit through the RISE program and the district’s agreement with Indiana Wesleyan University with the purpose of obtaining a bachelor’s degree and then moving on through the program to obtain their certification through Teachworthy. 
RISE is the district’s latest Grow Your Own program. RISE stands for “Rising Instructors Soaring in Education.”
“We’re growing our own teachers to help address the teacher shortage that we have going on nationwide, and we’ve already been able to place 19 of them for this school year, so we already have 19 in classrooms,” said Amanda Crawley, deputy superintendent of instructional services. 
Crawley said she was working to add a 20th intern to fill a vacancy at one of the junior high campuses. 
Tuesday’s course on assessments was the first course at CCISD for these RISE interns. The interns and the new teachers learned how to assess students and how to use that assessment data to help make sure their instruction is what it needs to be for each individual student, Crawley said. 
There are four tracks in the program. The Educate track is geared towards high school students who are earning credit at Central Texas College to become RISE interns once they graduate, where they will then be on the Aspire track, which is for those who have less than 30 hours of college credit. Those who have 60 hours of college credit, like Gonzalez, are on the Equip track, where they will work towards their bachelor’s. The final track is the Champion track, and it is for those with a bachelor’s degree who need to obtain their teaching certification. 
In order for an individual in the program to go into the classroom and teach, they need 60 hours of college credit. 
“We have about 30 to 40 more that are interested, but they’re not quite far enough along yet to go into the classroom,” Crawley said. “So a lot of the people that are here today started from maybe zero college credit hours or like 20 or 30, and so they’re earning their way up to that 60 where then they can become hired as interns.”
The employees do not have to have educational or child development college credit hours, Crawley added. 
“That’s one of the reasons why we partnered with Indiana Wesleyan University was they were willing to take their college credit, even if it was older credit because we do have a lot of military families and spouses that move in here, and so maybe they started several years ago and then they’ve come from different places, and so all of that credit transfers into IW, so that’s why we felt it was a good fit for us.”
Crawley said that the district has seen a huge impact already with this program. 
“It’s been absolutely life changing, I do think, for them,” she said. “We’ve always had a program where we could reimburse them for their college education, but when you’re earning a paraprofessional salary, you don’t always have that extra income to be able to put forward to wait to be reimbursed by the district. This is where we’re actually forward funding, so they’re not having to see any out-of-pocket money, and because of that, they’ve just been so grateful, so excited to work in Copperas Cove. We’ve actually seen an increase in our applications and people wanting to come work in Cove so that they can participate in this program, so it’s been wonderful for us.”
Every Tuesday evening, after school hours, the district will hold support sessions where the interns will start with one hour of training and then stay for a second hour of doing course work, where they can get assistance with any questions they may have. Instructional coaches will come in and help make sure the interns feel confident and successful in their work, Crawley said. 
Aydee Gonzalez is one of the RISE interns on the Equip track. She was first hired as an instructional aide at Clements/Parsons Elementary, helping with reading and math and working with students in small groups to bring them up to grade level. 
“My kiddos attend middle school and elementary in Copperas Cove, and I just wanted to work with their school schedule for my career schedule as well,” Gonzalez said. “I’m a military wife as well, and with that comes a lot of struggles and responsibilities, and so I had to put my career goals and educational goals on hold, so that I can raise my family while my husband was away. This opportunity was going to help me finish my goals for education and career as well.”
As a RISE intern, Gonzalez has already seen a pay bump compared to her previous paraprofessional salary, and she is looking forward to becoming a CCISD teacher, where she will start off at $53,000 annually, thanks to the recent decision by the CCISD Board of Trustees to approve the district’s pay increase. 
“That was another one of the reasons. Aside from my family, the pay increase that Copperas Cove has offered teachers is really, really great and amazing. Teachers do so much to help out within the classroom and outside of the classroom, and so they really truly deserve this pay.”
Gonzalez said that since starting as a RISE intern, she has worked to balance her new work schedule and family schedule with her classes, but she said she knew this would be a big adjustment. 
“I know that the end is going to be very rewarding once I have my education and my degree,” she said. 
Gonzalez hopes to remain teaching at the elementary level and said she definitely feels comfortable with both reading and math subjects. 
She said she chose to stay in Copperas Cove and go through this process in part because of being a military family and because of the support she has received. 
“The educators are just- they’ve been great,” Gonzalez said. “Ever since I started working my campus, [Clements/Parsons Elementary] specifically, our principal Mrs. Maples has been very encouraging. All my intervention team and all the teachers really have been very supportive, and they actually helped me jump on this opportunity as well. They made me believe that I could do this.”
Gonzalez added that the Second Grade team that she has been working with have been a great resource during this time. 
In order to be selected for the RISE program, the employee has to be recommended by their campus principal, according to Copperas Cove ISD Communications Director Wendy Sledd. 
Gonzalez entered the program already having her associate degree, and she expects to obtain her bachelor’s degree within the next year or two thanks to the district’s partnership with Indiana Wesleyan University, which offers an individualized, accelerated plan for each intern teacher in the program. RISE interns also take courses through the district that count towards college credit. 
Gonzalez, along with the other RISE interns, actually earned an hour of college credit through CCISD by attending the training Tuesday afternoon. 
The district is funding the RISE program using funds from TEA grant, over a two-year period, but the district hopes that the program will turn into a self-sustaining program, Sledd said. 
“It’s a great opportunity,” Gonzalez. “I really recommend it for anybody, even if they’ve never thought about being a teacher. Just try it.”

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