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CCSD students gain valuable experience in Future Educator Program

Kaley Kemp reading a story to students From third grade on, Kaley Kemp wanted to be a teacher.

“I used to play school with my mom and my teddy bears and I’d pretend to be a teacher,” recalled Kemp, who is now a senior at Grandview High School. “I’ve always really loved working with kids and I have a particular interest in special education. That’s kind of the path that I’m going down, but I’m also working in general education so I can get a feel for both.”

As one of 14 students participating in the Cherry Creek School District’s new Future Educator Program, Kemp is getting real life insights into what it might be like to be a teacher. The program allows CCSD high school students to take college-level, concurrent enrollment courses about education and earn credit toward a college degree. What’s more, the program gives them the opportunity to actually work for Cherry Creek Schools.

“The program has an apprenticeship component, where our students work 16 hours a week as paraprofessionals, or teacher assistants, in our K-8 schools,” said Sarah Grobbel, Assistant Superintendent for Career and Innovation for Cherry Creek Schools. She explained that the apprenticeship component is administered by CareerWise Colorado, a non-profit organization that is creating a statewide framework for youth apprenticeships. “Not only do they get paid, they get valuable experience that helps them build their skills and strengthen their resumes,” Grobbel added.

The program supports two of the three strategic priorities in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining educational excellence. First, the program supports instructional excellence by providing rigorous and relevant learning experiences. In addition, it supports workforce excellence by providing an opportunity for students to explore careers in education.

Kaley Kemp working with students “Cherry Creek Schools, like virtually every school district in the state, is facing a growing teacher shortage,” explained Brenda Smith, Chief Human Resources Officer for Cherry Creek Schools.

A 2017 study by the Colorado Department of Education found that because of declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs, trouble retaining teachers and the retirement of veteran teachers, Colorado had to recruit 50% of its educators from out of state.

“It is important that we support our students who are interested in education and encourage them to consider returning to work in Cherry Creek Schools after college,” Smith added.

Kemp is working two days a week as a paraeducator in Tracie Bernauer’s first grade classroom at Meadow Point Elementary and she’s loving every minute of it.

“I’m starting to get more involved in working in small groups with the kids or one-on-one with the kids and today I’m leading a little lesson,” Kemp said on a Wednesday in late September. “It’s all about just building me up to being able to be a teacher, so it’s a mixture of everything, which is really cool.”

Bernauer, who is a graduate of Grandview High School, said getting authentic experience in an elementary school classroom is invaluable to someone considering a career in education.

“I’m a little jealous because I didn’t have this opportunity when I was in high school,” Bernauer said. “But it’s been great for me to mentor Kaley and give her that little bit of field experience before she spends a lot of money for college, making sure that this is definitely what she wants to do.”

Kaley Kemp high fives with student Bernauer believes that high school students like Kemp will graduate with a degree of loyalty and a desire to return to Cherry Creek Schools because of the opportunities the district afforded them.

“I’m excited for these kids and hope to see them in this career, and maybe in our classrooms, in the next five years or so,” Bernauer said.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis discussed the Future Educator Program with Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried during a visit to the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus in August. The Governor’s Office is interested in using the program as a model for other districts, to help address the state’s teacher shortage.

Based on the first group of students to participate in the program, Sarah Grobbel believes it will help the district fill other high-demand positions as well.

“This group has students who are excited to look at a variety of jobs in education, such as paraprofessionals, school social workers, school psychologists and school administrators,” she said. “That’s why we called this a ‘future educator’ pathway, because we recognize we need well-trained people in many areas of our system moving forward.”

For more information about CCSD’s Future Educator Program, visit to CareerWise Colorado or contact Ashlin Montgomery, CCSD CareerWise apprenticeship liaison at 720-886-2625.

Posted 10/2/2019.