Genesee Board of Trustees OK's new Teaching Assistant Degree Program

Genesee Community College's Board of Trustees approved a new Teaching Assistant degree program this evening. The proposed new Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) program must now be submitted to the State University of New York and New York State Education Department for final approval.

The new program will prepare individuals to fill the growing number of instructional support positions present in school districts throughout the region. Teaching assistants usually work with individuals or small groups in classrooms, under the general supervision of a classroom teacher. They also help staff computer laboratories, resource rooms, and other school programs.

The number of teaching assistants in area school districts has grown over the last decade, according to Christine Belongia, Instructor of Teacher Education at Genesee Community College and one of the architects of the new degree program. "The growing use of technology and individualized instruction have created a need for more paraprofessional teaching assistants," she said. "Also, students with disabilities and other special needs have become integrated into classrooms, and these students often need support from teaching assistants in order to be successful students." Teaching assistants are used at every grade level in most school districts, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Several hundred teaching assistants are already employed in school districts throughout the Genesee-Livingston-Orleans-Wyoming region.

New state and federal regulations are also driving Genesee Community College's Teaching Assistant degree program as well. Beginning in February 2004, teaching assistants in New York State will need at least 18 hours of college preparation in order to receive licenses. In January 006, federal regulations will require that teaching assistants receive the equivalent of two years of college preparation or an actual associate's degree. Many school districts are already planning to require that teaching assistants hold associate's degrees. These regulations will ultimately upgrade the professional status of teaching assistants, according to Ms. Belongia.

Students enrolled in the new Teaching Assistant degree program will complete courses in education, human services, and psychology, as well as a variety of general education courses leading to a well-rounded college background.

Many teaching assistant graduates might choose to continue their education and become classroom teachers, according to Ms. Belongia. "As a region and as a nation, we are still facing a significant shortage of teachers at all grade levels throughout the next decade," she said. "In some areas, such as mathematics, technology, and languages, the shortages may be especially critical. Our hope is that the new teaching assistant degree program might become part of a career ladder that helps bring qualified, committed people into the teaching profession."

Although the new program will not be officially approved until sometime during the next academic year, students can already participate in courses that will lead to the Teaching Assistant degree. Individuals interested in the new program may call the College's Office of Admissions at 585-345-6800.

The new degree program is another example of Genesee's commitment to meeting important regional needs, Ms. Belongia said. "Each of our academic programs prepares students to meet vital community needs," she said. "The education of our young people is one of the most basic needs we face as a community and as a society. By offering this new program, we expect to make a significant contribution to the well-being of our local school districts and ultimately to future generations of students.