In an effort to get more teachers in the field, Pine Tree High School and LeTourneau University are offering a new program to students.

Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, Pine Tree High School students can be part of a program that will allow them to take dual credit education classes in high school and finish with an associate degree. Students can then go to LeTourneau to finish their bachelor’s degree in education and graduate ready to enter the field.

Pine Tree also will guarantee internships to the students working on their bachelor’s degree.

Pine Tree ISD Superintendent Steve Clugston said Thursday night at a parent information meeting that the Early Educator Preparation Program helps fast track students to getting a degree.

Assistant Superintendent Valerie Baxter said at the meeting that students in the program will start some of their education courses their junior year with the dual credit classes.

In the afternoon, students will work with teacher Elisabeth McGuire on their dual credit coursework, Baxter said.

Beth Nelms, director of certification at LeTourneau, said at the meeting that by the time students graduate high school and start at LeTourneau, they will be working toward their teaching certification. That would allow students to graduate and be ready to step into the classroom.

Darla Baggett, department chairwoman of Global Programs at LeTourneau, told parents the setup will be five-week courses taken one at a time.

“We’ve learned with our online programs to do short courses, and then have three in that semester, so you end up with nine hours,” Baggett said.

The program includes fall, spring and summer semesters, according to an information packet given at the meeting.

“Success is almost guaranteed,” Baggett said. “It only means that you have to make your commitment to do the work.”

Out of 122 hours, 65 of those will be taken as a dual credit student, said Melanie Roudkovski, vice president of Global Operations at LeTourneau and Pine Tree ISD board member. Each of those dual credit hours cost $90. That adds up to just more than $8,000 for students to pay in high school.

Once students start at LeTourneau, they are eligible for federal financial aid, she said. The aid can help with the cost of the 57 hours that will be needed to complete a bachelor’s degree.

A ballpark figure for the cost of those 57 hours is $26,000, Roudkovski said. But, the costs can be alleviated with the internship guaranteed to students.

“One of the things Pine Tree has committed to is putting students in a job, as they are completing this program at the rate of $10,000 a year,” she said.

It is basically a paid internship, Clugston said. Students would be aides in a classroom.

Roudkovski told parents the district needs more teachers.

LeTourneau has accelerated programs separate from the residential campus, she said. The Early Educator Preparation Program would be in that model, with online classes for the dual credit students.

“They can take the classwork, complete their courses in an accelerated format and also be in the classroom working, being mentored under the wing of a seasoned teacher while they’re working on that degree and be able to step into teaching two years after graduating high school,” Roudkovski said.

The program will get well-trained teachers at a faster rate, Clugston said. If the program takes off and is successful, it can solve a teacher shortage issue by using Pine Tree’s own students.

Applications are due by May 30 with a screening on June 3, Baggett said. Interviews will take place on June 6, and letters will be mailed and selection calls made by June 10.

Clugston said the exact number is not set, but the program will accept between five and 10 students.

“It’s a challenging program, no doubt, but if you look at the up side and can get through this, it’s a real win for a young person,” Clugston said. “But it’s not easy. If you’re looking for easy, it’s not this. We’re not selling easy; we’re selling special.”