Perry Community School District seeks applicants for education apprenticeship program

Special to the Chief
Perry Community School District staff are recognized for five years of service.  Clark Wicks, left, expects the paraprofessional apprenticeship program to help the district gain quality paraprofessionals and help some of them develop into future teachers.

On June 9, the state of Iowa announced the winners of $45.64 million dollars in grants aimed at helping fund the first of its kind education apprenticeship program. Perry Community School District’s proposal won up to $745,557 but the real winners of this grant will be paraprofessionals looking to pursue a career in education and the students that they work with.

“Paraeducators accepted into this program may earn financial incentives up to $3,000 a year as well as obtain a DMACC paraeducator certificate or even an associate’s degree, both of which can help obtain a bachelor’s degree in education,” said Perry Superintendent Clark Wicks, "all at little or no cost to themselves.”

Tasha Galindo’s journey to becoming a teacher started off as a paraeducator for Perry Community School District in 2008. She then decided to pursue an associate’s degree at William Penn in 2017.

“I wanted to continue my education so that I could help students learn and teach them that they can learn no matter how difficult some tasks may be,” Galindo said. "Once I completed my associate's degree, I remember thinking how fast the time had passed and decided to continue my education towards my bachelor's degree.”

The registered apprenticeship program at Perry Community School District aims at helping 20 apprentices obtain a paraeducator certificate or an associate’s degree that can then help them pursue a bachelor’s degree upon completion. Current high school students and adult paraprofessionals will get tuition and fees paid for by the school district’s grant with additional incentives to help them complete the program successfully.

Growing up, Galindo always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

“I had so many teachers that were positive role models to me and wanted to be that person for children," she said. "When I was a student at Perry Elementary, I had two teachers that had a positive impact on me and made me want to become a teacher. They were Mrs. Haaland and Mrs. Sue Leslie.”

Mrs. Galindo obtained her bachelor's degree in elementary education with endorsements in reading and special education and is now a full-time teacher at Perry Elementary. She credited her success to the support she received from her husband Mario and believes that her experience as a paraeducator helped her become a more successful teacher.

“I believe that my experience as a paraeducator played a great role in me becoming a teacher. As a paraeducator, we are given the opportunity to experience many teaching styles and classroom management strategies that we can use as future teachers," Galindo said. “I also feel like there are learning opportunities for paraeducators to see what they do or do not want to do in their own classrooms. I now use many strategies and routines in my current classroom that I learned over 14 years as a paraeducator.”

The paraprofessional apprenticeship grant will dovetail with the Future Ready Perry initiative. Over the last two years the FRP program has worked to help grow future teachers from Perry High School.

“Future Ready Perry has developed three career pathways; medical, education, and the trades for high school students. This grant will help high school students in the education pathway accelerate their path towards becoming a teacher," Connie Saenz, Future Ready Perry coordinator, said.

Students in the future educator club will be encouraged to work as paraeducators in programs such as PACES before and after school.

Adults interested in applying for the program can do so online.

Who should apply?

  1. Paraprofessionals without any college credits looking to pursue credentials, including an associates degree, receive mentorship and financial incentives.
  2. Paraprofessionals with some college credits looking to pursue credentials, including an associates degree, receive mentorship and financial incentives.
  3. Paraprofessionals with an associates degree or bachelor's degree interested in obtaining credentials that can help you become a teacher.