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GREENSBORO UNCG will use a new multimillion dollar federal grant to recruit new teachers into the profession and bring high-tech thinking to two rural school districts.

The university’s School of Education will create the Piedmont Teacher Residency Partnership with a five-year, $6.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The program will train new teachers and bring problem-solving lessons to some public schools in Rockingham and Surry counties.

“The idea is to meet mutual needs,” said Christina O’Connor, the director of this new program as well as the director of professional education preparation, policy and accountability at UNCG’s education school.

UNCG will recruit 80 prospective teachers — 20 a year for the next four years — for its new education program. The first class will start their UNCG coursework next summer and will work in schools during the 2020-21 school year.

Teaching prospects must have a bachelor’s degree but no teaching credential and be interested in working in one of several areas: elementary grades, middle grades, special education or high school English, math or science. The UNCG program runs for 14 months, and students will spend most of that time working in schools. These UNCG students will be paid $35,000 from the grant for the year they teach.

Students who complete the program will earn a master of arts in teaching and a teaching certificate. There’s one key condition: Graduates must stay on in a designated school in either Rockingham or Surry county for three years after they get their master’s degree. UNCG will continue to provide training and other support for new program graduates during this three-year span.

UNCG, working with the two school districts, will place these teaching prospects in 11 high-poverty schools — seven in Rockingham and four in Surry.

“It’s not just about UNCG,” O’Connor said of the new partnership. “It’s about UNCG working with Surry and Rockingham to find innovative ways to make sure these teachers are prepared to meet the needs of the students in these schools.”

The two school districts need teachers, for instance, and the program will set up a new pipeline to provide educators in both counties.

The teachers coming out of the UNCG program will be versed in what’s known as computational literacy. It’s not computer coding. Rather, computational literacy is a way to collect and analyze information — much like a computer might — and use it to solve a variety of real-world problems in this digital age.

The UNCG teachers-in-training will set up makerspaces in their assigned schools. The workshops will have tools and equipment to let students design and create things and carry out some of the lessons they’re learning in class.

Computational literacy, O’Connor said, is “something we believe is very important in our emerging tech environment. Our students need to be able to think computationally, not just do computing.”

The grant funding, which UNCG announced last week, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Partnership grant program. UNCG received a $7.7 million grant from the same program in 2014 to recruit and train teachers for STEM fields and set up makerspaces at several schools in Guilford and Forsyth counties.

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