3 WCU students to sign pledge to teach in their home districts

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Dr. Desha Williams (center), dean of West Chester University’s College of Education and Social Work, is pictured at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School with recent WCU education graduates/former PRIZE Ambassadors Devin Davis (back row/left), Imere Williams (back row/middle), and Equity and Advancement Officer for Colonial School District Melissa Figueroa-Douglas (back row/right).

For West Chester University’s (WCU) College of Education and Social Work, the answer to fixing the current national teacher pipeline shortage can be found in teaching school districts about Partnering in Raising Inclusive, Zealous Educators (PRIZE). It’s the ultimate PRIZE for children needing loving teachers and school districts searching urgently to hire lots of qualified, dedicated educators.

In keeping with this quest, three recent WCU PRIZE students, who will be college education majors in the fall, will be celebrated as they sign commitment declarations to pursue academic journeys that will lead to careers as future teachers in their home school districts on Thursday, June 27, 2:30-3:30 p.m., West Chester University Foundation, 202 Carter Drive, West Chester. In addition to school district partners and generous program sponsors, among those watching the ceremonial signing will be seven high school PRIZE students who plan to pursue teacher preparation at WCU and eventually become educators in their own school districts.

“Pledging unwavering zeal to create a classroom where every voice is heard, every perspective valued, and every individual celebrated,” will be WCU PRIZE students Hannah Giampietro (home school: Kennett High School), Cecelia Perrotti (home school: Kennett High School) and Carmelena Smith (home school: Plymouth Whitemarsh High School). Presiding over the first-time ceremony will be Dean of WCU’s College of Education and Social Work Dr. Desha Williams, who created and launched the PRIZE program in January 2023 to help solve the national teacher pipeline shortage by teaching school districts how to “grow their own.” Among those providing inspirational testimonies during the ceremony will be Kristina Williams, a current WCU PRIZE Ambassador who, as an undergraduate education major, serves as one of many mentors to the high school students, and the superintendent of Kennett Consolidated School District, Dr. Dusty Blakey, who signed-on as the first district partner of the PRIZE program.

School districts are raising their hands high to participate in the innovative PRIZE program. Since its inception, the University has linked arms with such partners as Avon Grove School District (Avon, PA); Chester Upland School District (Chester, PA); Colonial School District (Plymouth Meeting, PA); Kennett Square Consolidated School District (Kennett, PA); New Hope-Solebury School District (New Hope, PA); and Rose Tree Media School District (Media, PA). Conversations are ongoing with additional area school districts that wish to join in, too.

As a new program, PRIZE has admitted 16 students, with more being admitted on a rolling-basis for the 2024-2025 academic year.

During a recent Public Hearing on Pennsylvania’s Teacher Shortage before the House Education Committee, Williams spoke passionately about the need for similar programs in the Commonwealth to inspire younger generations to pursue careers in education. “January 2024 marked the one-year anniversary of PRIZE and I am excited to report that on March 8, Governor Shapiro stated during a press conference that PRIZE should serve as a model for teacher recruitment,” Williams said during her testimony.

“PRIZE has been fortunate enough to work with our district partners in a way that allows aspiring teachers to begin their journey free of charge,” she emphasized. “PRIZE also benefits from generous donors and non-profit organizations who support book scholarships, as well as paid opportunities for current education students to visit high school events to tell their stories,” she added. “These important activities work to inspire others to explore and enter teaching professions. The generosity also helps fund a weeklong summer academy designed to provide even greater exposure into being an education major at West Chester University, while building bonds between the students.”

West Chester University’s PRIZE Program is supported by such generous sponsors as Dr. Judith Finkel ’73, Chester Community Charter School, Justamere Foundation, Rob Dash, Esq. and Debbie Dash, as well as others.

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