COPPERAS COVE, Texas (FOX 44) – Eleven Copperas Cove Independent School District paraprofessionals are recommended by their principals to teach in their own classroom in the 2022 school year. Another 32 paraprofessionals are eligible to work as interns in the classroom with an experienced teacher, and 30 more are enrolling in classes to earn enough college credits to advance to become interns.

CCISD Director of Communications Wendy Sledd said in a press release on Wednesday morning that the district is ensuring a quality education for students by educating and training paraprofessionals to become teachers through its new Rising Instructors Soaring in Education (R.I.S.E.) program.

This is an instructional intern program approved by the CCISD Board of Trustees, and creates a fast-track for staff members to apply for teaching internships after they have completed 60 hours of college credit.

Crossroads High School Instructional Aide Natasha M. Colón Chamorro earned 90 college hours from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, and was accepted into the R.I.S.E. program to complete her teaching degree.

Natasha M. Colón Chamorro. (Courtesy: CCISD)

“I have been working as instructional aide for three years now,” Chamorro said. “This accelerated program gives me the flexibility as a working mom of two girls, one with special needs, to finally earn my degree.”

Four years ago, Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary paraprofessional Erin Hunter knew she wanted to be a teacher. She moved back to Copperas Cove and was hired as a paraprofessional in a special education classroom.

Erin Hunter. (Courtesy: CCISD)

“I had already been going to an on-line school to earn my Bachelor’s in Early Education. I have been wanting to start teaching for a while, but I knew I still had a year and a half left of schooling plus half a semester of student teaching. So, it was going to be a while,” Hunter said. “When I heard about CCISD’s R.I.S.E. program, I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to be able to start to teach now, while finishing my schooling, as I would be learning through hands-on and as I learn better that way. It seemed like a great fit for me.”

Intervention Aide Andrea Whitfield was hired as a paraprofessional in April, and will finally complete her degree through the R.I.S.E. program.

Andrea Whitfield. (Courtesy: CCISD)

“I’m lacking 23 credit hours. My degree will be in elementary education. I do have a personal goal of being certified in special education in the next five years,” Whitfield said. “I have always wanted to be a teacher. I have a passion for working with and helping our young scholars. I was a student who had learning disabilities and I want to be there for all my students and hopefully be the kind of teacher that helps make a difference.”

Sledd goes on to say the district is working to increase the number of high school students who want to become future teachers by also creating a pathway for them to earn degrees to teach in CCISD. The district offers twelve hours of college credit to high school students in education and training courses through the Copperas Cove High School Career Technology Education Department in partnership with Central Texas College.