College secures grant, creates new opportunities for local students
OCCC, LCSD and others build new track to teaching degree
Oregon Coast Community College (OCCC) has been awarded a major grant to help the region “grow our own” teachers for the K-12 schools that serve communities along the Central Oregon Coast.
In partnership with the Lincoln County School District (LCSD), Tillamook Bay Community College (TBCC) and Western Oregon University (WOU), along with other supporters, OCCC has secured a $250,000 Meyer Memorial Trust Grant to fill the educator workforce gap in Lincoln and Tillamook Counties with culturally responsive and prepared K-12 teachers.
“This grant will open new pathways for local students planning to begin their teaching careers right here in Lincoln County,” said OCCC President Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge. “It will provide our students with a direct path towards a teaching degree, while minimizing the time they are forced to spend away from home. And, it will help the school district add to the diversity of instructors serving Lincoln County’s children.”
The first seeds of the project were planted in February of this year and, with the opportunity to apply for funding from Meyer Memorial Trust, the plan grew to include several other partners.
The school district has been involved in developing the project from the beginning and Superintendent Tom Rinearson has played a key role. “Lincoln County School District is excited about this partnership with OCCC to provide a pathway to grow our own teachers and early childhood educators,” he said. “There is a tremendous need for this labor force and it will be a benefit to the youth of Lincoln County. We thank Meyer Memorial Trust for entrusting us with this grant and we know the results will amazing.”
Western Oregon University has also been on board since the beginning with a goal of providing a seamless transfer from our local community colleges to the university program. TBCC was invited to join the project shortly after the grant proposal entered development. Their participation will help ensure sustainability of the program by increasing the total number of participants who form the WOU cohort. Thought there is no guarantee, with enough participants, some WOU courses could be offered here on the coast, reducing the amount of time students need to spend away from home.
“This program is another of the College’s ongoing efforts to add to the career opportunities available to our students right here in Lincoln County,” said Daniel Lara, OCCC’s Dean of Academics and Workforce.
In a release, the Meyer Memorial Trust stated it strives to “advance equity across Oregon,” and works “to help build wealth in communities that have long experienced income disparities.” Income disparities are the norm here in Lincoln County, as evidenced by the county’s own “10-Year Economic Update” study, whose findings included 2012 median family income totals of $41,996 for Lincoln County as compared to $50,036 for the state.
One of the desired outcomes of the grant is to produce a more diverse teacher workforce and the project will include targeted outreach to underrepresented populations. OCCC is partnering with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Centro de Ayuda to provide culturally appropriate outreach and student recruitment. The partnerships will also help support cultural representation on program advisory boards.
The teacher track
Through the program, local students can take core courses at Oregon Coast Community College and then transfer to Western Oregon University’s College of Education to complete a four-year degree and earn a teaching certification. The program also includes placement in student-teaching positions here in Lincoln County.
“Through this program, Lincoln County residents – whether they are new to the area or have deep roots and family ties here – can not only stay here, but can develop successful careers while they share their experience and local expertise in the classroom,” Lara said.
The program has been carefully designed to ensure that the courses taken at OCCC prior to transferring to WOU all apply directly to the eventual teaching degree, with no loss of credit. As part of the partnership, TBCC will produce the required math courses and OCCC students will participate via videoconference at OCCC’s North County Center in Lincoln City. OCCC will reciprocate by producing the teacher education courses required for the associate’s degree program and TBCC students will participate via videoconference.
The Meyer Memorial Trust grant will help develop the program, and will also fund special advising and student recruitment materials tailored to the program. The grant will also fund improvements in OCCC’s distance-education infrastructure, ensuring smooth and convenient delivery of courses such as those mathematics courses produced by TBCC.
The new program marks an important milestone in Oregon Coast Community College’s growth. The 30-year-old college already presents robust clusters of programs in Business, transfer degrees, Aquarium Science, and Health and Human Services. Education will become OCCC’s newest cluster and will include an early childhood education certificate program. Thanks, in part, to this grant, the college will be able to offer new pathways for local students looking to earn college degrees, and launch their working careers, here at home.