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 Internship Program Supports New Special Educators

After years of raising a child on the autism spectrum and volunteering in her classrooms, Cherie Linneman decided she wanted to become a special educator.

When she became aware of the internship program offered by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) Teacher Effectiveness and Preparation team, Linneman knew her career goal could finally be met. She's now a teacher at Central Elementary School while working on completing her credential.

Linneman had started her teaching career years before as a 3rd and 4th grade teacher but quit to raise her daughter who is now 20 years old. The time seemed right to take up teaching again through the Education Specialist Intern Program, an alternative route that allows you to work as a classroom teacher while you earn a teaching credential.

"I love being able to immediately apply the new things I am learning to my classroom instruction," she said. "I feel very supported by the SDCOE staff, program managers, and practicum supervisor."

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. The Teacher Effectiveness and Preparation team plans on adding an intern route to the math and science credentials in the near future.

"The intern route is a rigorous pathway to the teaching credential," said Dr. Conni Campbell, intern program coordinator with the Teacher Effectiveness and Preparation team. "Everyone is giving support as interns concurrently learn their craft and deliver daily instruction to students."

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

There are 55 interns currently in the program in 24 school districts across the county.

Another teacher in the program is Kenny Weisbart, who started as a substitute teacher and is now an intern special educator in South Bay Union School District.

"After serving as a substitute teacher for several years, I knew a career in special education was for me," he said. "I never thought I would become the actual teacher so quickly."

He said he learned about the program at the substitute teacher training offered twice a year by the Teacher Effectiveness and Preparation team, and that the helpfulness of the team keeps him encouraged, even in this challenging and changing teaching environment.

"The current distance learning teaching environment is a tricky way to start your career, but I'm learning a lot and the program is very supportive," he said.

SDCOE's Teacher Effectiveness and Preparation department provides programs that address pre-service preparation, advanced teacher credentials and authorizations, and professional learning for educators that are responsive to district, teacher, student, and community needs.