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Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis gives the keynote speech during the Kentucky Association of School Administrators Annual Leadership Conference on July 19, 2019.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Kentucky Department of Education will soon launch an initiative highlighting the routes to alternative teaching certifications in hopes of finding more educators of the state's classrooms.

Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis announced his agency’s campaign, called Go Teach KY, to address Kentucky’s teacher shortage during his keynote speech Friday at the Kentucky Association of School Administrators Annual Leadership Institute.

“We’ve got to do better with recruiting seasoned professionals into our alternative routes to teacher certification,” he said, noting a need for more teachers in special education and career and technical education. “There are seven routes to alternative certification that the General Assembly has created that most folks across the state have never heard of.”

Go Teach KY will primarily be an educational effort. The state is developing a website with information about alternative certification methods, and Lewis said getting the word out about the available pathways to teaching will be key in attracting candidates hoping for a career change.

“More than anything, this is going to be a communications effort,” he told WDRB News.

There are seven options to obtain an alternative teaching certificate in Kentucky, but two – school district and institute training programs – are under review by the Education Professional Standards Board, the agency’s website says.

Alternative certifications can be awarded to military veterans, college faculty interested in transitioning to teaching in eighth grade through high school, those who can demonstrate exceptional work experience, those who have a degree in another field and enroll in university-based programs, and those interested in becoming an adjunct teacher, although that route only leads to certifications in specifics areas and not full state certifications, according to EPSB.

Kentucky isn’t the only state facing teacher shortages.

“I would call it a national crisis,” Lewis said. “Nationally, we’re going to have to think about what it means to recruit people into the teaching profession.”

The state’s push to ensure prospective teachers know the ways in which they can transition into education follows a pair of announcements by JCPS in its efforts to develop a more diverse teaching roster that could lead to more local teachers with alternative certifications.

JCPS is partnering with Simmons College of Kentucky, a historically black institution, in an initiative unveiled last week that specifically targets Simmons students and graduates for classroom jobs in the district, and the Jefferson County Board of Education on Tuesday discussed a potential teacher residency program geared toward minorities that the district would operate internally if enacted.

Finding and developing effective teachers, either through traditional paths or alternative models, will be pivotal to the success of Kentucky’s schoolchildren, Lewis said.

“We’re going to have to do a much better job to ensure that there’s a bigger pool of well trained, well prepared, qualified people that can teach kids across the commonwealth regardless of the district, regardless of the geography, regardless of the subject area, and that’s going to take creative approaches,” he said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story referenced the number of teaching jobs posted by JCPS and other school districts across Kentucky, according to a statewide employment database. Those postings do not reflect current vacancies, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.

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