New Program Provides Affordable Pathway to Obtaining Teaching Degree

There are over 55,000 unfilled teaching positions in the United States, according to a recent study. Smyth County has partnered with regional educational institutions to address that shortage by providing its students with a new affordable option to become teachers.
The new Teachers for Tomorrow Program and Smyth County Promise will enable Smyth County students to earn a teaching degree from Emory & Henry College three years after graduating from high school, at a total tuition cost of $15,000. The new program was introduced at a signing ceremony at Oak Point Elementary School on Feb. 7, attended by education leaders from Emory & Henry, Virginia Highlands Community College, and Wytheville Community College, along with representatives from Smyth County Public Schools, the Smyth County Board of Supervisors, and the Smyth County Community Foundation.
"The Teachers for Tomorrow 1+1+2 Program for Smyth County Students helps prospective teachers navigate the cost of higher education in obtaining a degree in teacher preparation," said Dr. Dennis Carter, Division Superintendent of Smyth County Public Schools. "With the financial support of the Smyth County Board of Supervisors and the Smyth County Community Foundation, students who graduate from Smyth County Schools will receive free community college tuition. Additionally, Emory & Henry College has reduced their tuition costs to $15,000 maximum for the final two years of their degree. As we know, the cost of higher education can be a barrier to students. This collaborative effort provides an affordable pathway for prospective educators. We are thankful to the partnerships within our community and with higher education to make this pathway a reality for our students who are interested in the teaching profession."
The Smyth County Board of Supervisors and the Smyth County Community Foundation developed the Smyth County Promise Program for students who graduate from Smyth County Schools. The goal of the Promise Program is to eliminate the cost barrier associated with attending Wytheville Community College (WCC) or Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC) by providing last dollars for tuition costs.
The Presidents of VHCC and WCC expressed their excitement at being part of the Teachers for Tomorrow program. 
"The future of our community and our country depends on having well-trained teachers to educate our youth," said Dr. Dean E. Sprinkle, Wytheville Community College President. "This program is designed to encourage high school students to explore teaching career opportunities and then map out their educational pathway to become licensed teachers. Through the vision of the Smyth County Community Foundation and the Smyth County Board of Supervisors, the Smyth County Promise Scholarship will provide these future teachers with free community college tuition to help them achieve their goals while simultaneously addressing the current teacher shortage."
"One of the most impactful people in a child’s life is their teacher, and we’re thrilled to be part of this new pathway to prepare Smyth County students to be teachers in their own community. In our work together, Smyth County Public Schools, Virginia Highlands, Wytheville, and Emory & Henry offer Smyth County residents a complete educational system–from elementary school through advanced degrees, personal enrichment to employment skills," said Dr. Adam Hutchison, President of Virginia Highlands Community College. "It's another way Smyth County is a leader in building strong communities in the Commonwealth."
Emory & Henry College has approved a reduced tuition rate for students who matriculate through the Teachers for Tomorrow Program. Those students will receive a reduced tuition rate of $7,500 per year, excluding the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG).
"Emory & Henry is pleased to join with our education partners in the region to provide this pathway for students who aspire to pursue a career in teaching," said Dr. Michael J. Puglisi, Provost and Executive Vice President, Emory & Henry College. "The Teachers for Tomorrow program demonstrates the benefits of collaboration between public and private educational entities to maximize the opportunities available to our students, as well as to support education in our region by encouraging our future teachers to study and learn close to home."
High school students who participate in the Teachers for Tomorrow Program will be provided experiential learning opportunities during their senior year through observation and volunteer time within Smyth County Schools. The students will also complete dual-enrollment classes to meet the first year of their college requirement upon graduation from high school. Year two will be completed through one of the participating community colleges, tuition free, thanks to the Smyth Promise Program. Years three and four will be completed through Emory & Henry College at a reduced tuition rate of $7,500 per year. Therefore, the total expense for students to earn their bachelor's degrees will be $15,000, prior to any Federal or other external financial assistance.
The Teachers for Tomorrow program will begin in Fall 2024. Students who are interested in participating should speak with their high school counselors.