Copperas Cove ISD program pays for paraprofessionals’ college tuition

Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 5:56 PM CDT
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COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) - Andrea Whitfield is working on some unfinished business this school year at Copperas Cove ISD.

“I have over 97 credit hours just over the years,” Whitfield said. “I keep taking a class here and there and I’m at the point where it’s like this is what I need to do.”

She’s teaching her own 5th grade ELA-R class at Williams/Ledge Elementary School in CCISD this year. It’s all possible through the district’s Rising Instructors Soaring in Education (RISE) program which helps paraprofessionals like Whitfield finish out their college degrees for free and teach.

“We are really looking at making sure they are prepared for that role,” Lori Hensley, CCISD director of extended learning, said. “This is a bridge to becoming a teacher: from paraprofessional to teacher.”

The partnership with Indiana Wesleyan University allows paraprofessionals with at least 60 college credit hours to become a teacher intern and teach a class with a mentor’s guidance. Paraprofessionals can work towards their associate’s or bachelor’s degree depending on how many credits they have.

Currently, CCISD has just 15 open teacher positions. The district said the program is helping keep openings low while giving paraprofessionals who are teacher interns a raise.

“Most of our paraprofessionals are here because they have a heart for kids,” Hensley said. “I would actually say all of our paraprofessionals are here for that. They’re already wanting to become teachers and sometimes life just gets in the way.”

For Whitfeld, the RISE program is a way for her to shelve one chapter and move onto the next.

“My life goal is to be a SPED teacher,” she said. “I’m getting this hands-on experience right now, which is going to help me in the end.”

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