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Apprenticeship program helping address teacher shortage issue in Southern Nevada

Officials say the program has a 95 percent graduation rate and about 60 percent of students come from diverse backgrounds.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

Long-term substitute turned fourth grade teacher Jeanette Sanjurjo said going back to school later in life as an adult with a full-time job and bills to pay isn’t usually easy. But she said UNLV’s Paraprofessional Pathways Project, which is tailored to paraprofessionals or school support professionals working in the Clark County School District (CCSD) or a Nevada charter school, helped her reach her goal of becoming a licensed teacher. 

The program, which began in 2020 and has received financial support from CCSD and the Nevada Department of Education, covers tuition and fees for participants.

It offers a blend of online and in-person classes to meet the needs of students’ busy schedules. The accelerated curriculum allows students to receive a bachelor of science degree in education and complete qualifications for teacher licensure in a single academic year. 

“They meet with you, they tell you this is what you need to do and … if you have a great work ethic, you're gonna get through it like that,” Sanjurjo told U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and other dignitaries during a tour and press conference at Laura Dearing Elementary School last Thursday in Las Vegas. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said the foundation for this work was laid out by a 2021 bill, AB352, which Michelee Cruz-Crawford, principal at C.C. Ronnow Elementary School and Nevada System of Higher Education regent, helped spearhead. The legislation allows paraprofessionals to continue working while student teaching. Before, many couldn’t afford to quit their paraprofessional jobs to student teach for the required 16 weeks.

To date, approximately 400 CCSD paraprofessionals have participated in the program, said interim Superintendent Brenda Larsen-Mitchell. According to Ebert, the program has a 95 percent graduation rate. She said 62 percent of the students in the program come from diverse backgrounds. 

“This program is a huge success, allowing us to eliminate cost barriers, provide students support and, most importantly, see the number of educators grow to provide our students with a general, great education,” Larsen-Mitchell said.  


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