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Different Paths To North Carolina Classrooms Help Fill Teacher Shortage

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The lateral entry program and alternative licensure program will add 1,500 teachers to North Carolina this year, but the state still needs 90,000 more by the next decade.

Lewis Moore started teaching electronics at Riverside High in February. Moore is a teacher, but he never graduated from a college of education. He chose alternative entry to gain quick access to the classroom.

"I think this way works for me. I've always been a quick learner and I've worked with kids before," he said.

Because North Carolina is dealing with a severe teacher shortage, becoming a teacher is a little like multiple choice.

You can earn a teacher's degree or transfer a teacher certificate from another state. You can make a lateral entry if you already have a college degree, and take education classes at night, weekends or during the summer to get a degree. You can also get an alternative license, where work experience pays off.

Keith Edwards, who coordinates Riverside's Center for Engineering Technologies, teaches on an alternative license. He started at a higher salary than a beginning teacher who graduates with an education degree.

Edwards said he does not think about what knowledge he lacks, he thinks about what expert knowledge he brings to students.

"I think we all bring something different to the table, and I also think that we have to look at varying those experiences and find out what is in the best interest of the child," he said.

Alternative licensure teachers can sometimes be compensated for the knowledge they gain from another industry, which means they do not start at the bottom of the pay scale.

Angela Farthing, the manager of the Center for Teaching and Learning -- a project of the North Carolina Association of Educators, understands why traditionally certified teachers get upset.

"Anytime you deal with teachers' pay, they're going to be upset, but they have to remember that these teachers are earning credentials. It just takes time," she said.

Farthing said many of those teachers do not realize that lateral and alternative entry teachers do not begin the four-year process to achieve tenure until they are fully certified.

President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" Act requires teachers to be fully certified in the area they teach by the 2005-06 school year, which may affect North Carolina's opportunity to offer lateral and alternative entry programs unless they are substantially changed.