The North Country Teacher Certification Program is a collaboration between Plymouth State University and White Mountains Community College. The program aims to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in the North Country.
Amelia Alton was a pre-school teacher with more than 20 years of experience, who wanted to be a classroom teacher, “I always wanted to try my hand at the first and second grade level. But, I needed a different certification.” In 2010, with the help of the NCTCP, Alton went back to college and received her certification.
Sounds simple, right? It wasn’t. Though she had the prerequisite associate’s degree to get started with the program, she spent the next three years attending classes. “Which are all in the evening. So you go to work during the day then go attend classes.” Some of the classes could run up to three-hours each night.
But for Alton it was worth it, she sees firsthand the need for teachers in the north country, but says just as important is the need for teachers from the north country. “Some people will move into the area and then realize that the North Country is not for them and they often leave. So it helps when you’re from the area because you have a better understanding.”
Though classes are taught by PSU faculty, they are conducted at WMCC in Berlin, allowing for a much shorter commute for north country residents interested in becoming elementary school teachers. “I live an hour north of the notch, so attending PSU was too far, it was much easier to travel to WMCC," says Alton.
Candidates spend three semesters taking classes and one semester organizing them. The student-teaching component of the program demands each participant spend 16 weeks, 5 days per week in the classroom. As a result most have to take leave, or resign altogether from their current job, but the NCTCP helps out there, too. The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, Alton explains, “provides stipend while you’re student teaching so that you can concentrate on that and not have to be working."
Alton is now in her second year of teaching first grade at Brown Elementary School in Berlin. “It’s fun, exciting; and a very busy day and busy week. My 21 students are like sponges at that age anything you give them they absorb it and they learn.”