Gemayel Keyes and LeShawna Coleman outside Gilbert Spruance Elementary School, where Gemayel is now a teacher resident co-teaching special education in grades six through eight.

The long-simmering teacher shortage has become a crisis. Even before the pandemic, austerity budgets had been driving educators—and all school staff—into other careers. Long hours, high stress, lack of respect, and woefully inadequate resources: all of these challenges only grew once COVID-19 hit. Now, teachers are expected to do even more—accelerate learning while helping whole families heal—without the supports they and their students need. These conditions are driving many educators away. But there’s one group who knows about all of these challenges and still wants to become teachers: our paraprofessionals. They are already in our classrooms educating and caring for our students.

To make it easier for paraprofessionals in Philadelphia to complete their coursework and student teaching, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) negotiated a new paraprofessional-to-teacher program with multiple pathways so that each paraprofessional would get the right level of support. Gemayel Keyes, an experienced paraprofessional highlighted the need for such a program and is now in it as a teacher resident, and LeShawna Coleman, a master teacher turned PFT staff representative has been a key architect of the program.

Learn more about the program from this interview with Keys and Coleman at Recruiting the Talent Within (