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 Internship Program Helps Bring Teachers to Special Education Classrooms

After years in the grocery business, Joseph Sanchez decided he wanted to become an educator, a goal he's pursuing with the help of an internship program offered by the San Diego County Office of Education Teacher Effectiveness and Preparation team.

He's now teaching at Friendship School while working on completing his credential.

Sanchez originally enrolled at a local university, but the program there didn't work for him. He quit that program and a few months later signed up for the Education Specialist Intern Program, which has been a much better fit.

"It's great," he said. "I just feel like it's more relatable to my work. We're getting paid to be teachers while we learn."

The internship program is specifically for people seeking to earn a special education credential, which is especially important because schools often have a difficult time filling those positions. Participants in the two-year program work full-time as teachers in local school districts while taking classes at night to earn their credential.

"This is a true partnership with school districts," said Dr. Conni Campbell, a coordinator with the Teacher Effectiveness and Preparation team. "Everyone is giving support."

That support includes goal setting, employment resources, classroom observation, and site mentorship.

There are about 30 interns currently in the program in 12 school districts across the county.

Another teacher in the program is Nancy Yeh, who is specializing in special education for preschoolers.

"I always found that I had a special connection with kids with special needs," she said. "I have a heart for this career."

She said Campbell and the team have been very helpful and encouraging as she interns at Central Elementary School in Escondido.

"It's challenging to go to school at night, but I'm learning a lot," she said.