WALLA WALLA, Wash. — A residency program for aspiring special education teachers beginning this summer aims to address the shortage that local school officials say is happening not only in Walla Walla but across the country.

The yearlong program, which is offered through the Washington Education Association, Walla Walla Valley Education Association and Walla Walla Public Schools, will train future special education teachers by having them work in several educational settings in Walla Walla.

Special Education Director Barb Casey says the shortage of special education teachers isn’t a challenge that is unique to Walla Walla and that this program could help remedy the issue.

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“It really is a problem statewide and nationwide,” Casey said. “I believe special education is the best job in the world, and this residency helps get that message out. They get to have that experience that really shows them why it’s the best job in the world.”

Each resident will commit to employment in Walla Walla Public Schools for at least three years after successful completion of the program.

“I do think it is going to fill some of the gaps that we’ve had in Walla Walla,” Casey said. “We’re looking at people in our community who want to stay in our community and make a difference.”

Mindy Meyer, the district’s director of human resources, said the program was planning to accept about four residents. She said the residents will receive a more well-rounded experience than most special education teaching students.

“A really great aspect of this is that you have special ed teachers in resource rooms, behavior rooms and specialty classrooms as well as general ed,” Meyer said. “Oftentimes a special ed teacher might only get one of those experiences or only resource room, so this way they’ll have four different experiences.”

Casey said residents would likely work in several Walla Walla schools throughout the year, but it has not yet been decided which schools will participate in the program.

“The exciting thing for me about the experience our residents will get is that they’ll have experiences in all types of special education settings,” Casey said. “So they’re going to get experience in the resource setting as well as a section of time that is in more of a social-emotional-focused classroom.”

The residency is paid, with a minimum salary of $35,000 including benefits. The Washington Education Association will cover the cost of assessments, certifications and course materials, and tuition will cost residents $2,000.

To participate in the program, applicants must be at least 18, have a bachelor’s degree by June 26, have completed an approved basic skills assessment and complete an application which includes two letters of recommendation and a personal narrative. The deadline for applications is Friday, May 12, and the program begins this June.

“I am so excited about this opportunity for people to help us do what’s right for kids, which is to have the most qualified people in those positions,” Casey said.

© 2023 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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