Young woman sitting on a porch

Blue Ridge Community College students have new pathway to becoming teachers

By Ben Hardy, Faculty Chair, Transylvania County Campus

Blue Ridge Community College is proud to offer many degree programs to help students meet their educational and career goals. Students interested in a career in education now have a new opportunity to enter that field, thanks to the College’s Associate in Arts (AA) in Teacher Preparation and Associate in Science (AS) Teacher Preparation programs. Blue Ridge is the first community college in North Carolina to be approved to offer these two degrees.

For Ashley Dodd, who has wanted to be a teacher since she was in third grade, the AA in Teacher Preparation was an obvious choice. When asked why she wants to be a teacher, Dodd explains, “I want to have an impact on students’ lives and help grow and shape young minds.”

Dodd’s interest in teaching, and the interest of others like her, is good news for the state as “there is a critical shortage of teachers in the state of North Carolina,” reports Brenda Blackburn, Dean for Business and Service Careers at Blue Ridge. “With that in mind, Early Childhood faculty across the state of North Carolina began brainstorming about 4 years ago on how we could increase the teacher pipeline in North Carolina.” As a result, “with feedback from the UNC Schools of Education, The North Carolina Community College System created two new degree programs which are built upon our current AA and AS degrees.”

The AA and AS Teacher Preparation programs provide a meaningful pathway for those interested in the teaching profession. They are a stepping stone toward the bachelor’s degree and certification for those who want to teach at the elementary, middle school, or high school level.

Dodd, who is specifically interested in becoming a special education teacher, sees her AA in Teacher Preparation as an excellent first step towards becoming a teacher. “It gives you an affordable and great start to your education for your career goal,” says Dodd.

While the Teacher Preparation degrees are based on the standard Associate in Arts and Associate in Sciences degrees, they offer one important benefit. According to Blackburn, “these degrees have four education classes within the program. This gives students an opportunity to try out the education field, so to speak, before entering a four-year institution to see if this is the career pathway for them.”

Currently, students within the Teacher Preparation programs can transfer to Mars Hill and Lees McRae, thanks to specific 2 + 2 articulation agreements Blue Ridge has with those institutions. The College will soon be pursuing specific agreements with three area state universities: The University of North Carolina at Asheville, Western Carolina University, and Appalachian State University. A broader, statewide articulation for the entire UNC System is also expected in the future.

Other avenues exist in addition to the AA and AS Teacher Preparation degrees. High school students who are considering teaching as a career can jump start their education via the Career and College Promise Teacher Preparation certificates. By pursuing this option, a high school student could compete upwards of 60% of the associate degree by the time they finish high school.

The state needs more students, like Dodd, who are passionate about teaching and are, as Blackburn says, inspired “to influence the next generation.” The AA and AS Teacher Preparation degrees, and the CCP certificates, are excellent avenues for beginning a meaningful career in education.

Students interested in learning more about these programs or getting started with classes can get more information by calling 828-694-1700 or visiting www.blueridge.edu.