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College of Education helping South Georgia State launch teacher education program

South Georgia State College MOU with College of Education
UNG's College of Education is helping South Georgia State College launch its early childhood special education program. Pictured, from left, are Dr. Carl McDonald, SGSC academic affairs specialist; SGSC President Dr. Ingrid Thompson-Sellers; UNG President Dr. Bonita C. Jacobs; Dr. Robert Page, SGSC vice president for academic and student affairs; and Dr. Kit Carson, SGSC professor of education.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) is helping a fellow University System of Georgia (USG) institution train the next generation of teachers.

UNG agreed to give South Georgia State College (SGSC) students a chance to earn a dual certification in elementary education and special education through a memorandum of understanding. SGSC students may complete UNG's special education general curriculum elementary education program and qualify for teacher certification through UNG.

The agreement outlines that this partnership will be implemented as SGSC seeks to develop its own program.

UNG faculty will operate as consultants to assist SGSC faculty in program delivery, meeting compliance with program standards and developing SGSC's own program.

Dr. Martha Venn, USG deputy vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the partnership is modeled off UNG's similar work to help Macon State College launch its teacher education program in 2005. Venn was hired to launch the Macon State program. She said working with UNG made sense then and now, because the UNG College of Education's early childhood special education program is "so well-designed and implemented."

Dr. Bob Michael was dean of UNG's College of Education at that time and USG associate vice chancellor of educator preparation and policy when the UNG-South Georgia State agreement was being formed. He retired from the USG this summer.

These types of arrangements allow new teacher education programs to start welcoming students much sooner as they work through the certification process.

"That's the only way we will be able to start to meet the needs of these rural areas for teachers," Venn said. "UNG has always had an incredible spirit of partnership with other institutions. That's something the system appreciates."

Dr. Susan Ayres, dean of UNG's College of Education, said SGSC was looking to expand a number of four-year degree programs. Student interest in teacher education and a severe teacher shortage in South Georgia made teacher education a priority.

Ayres said the USG referred SGSC to UNG's College of Education for help because of that school's interest in UNG's professional development model.

"We're very pleased to work with them," said Ayres, who is retiring Jan. 1.

SGSC President Dr. Ingrid Thompson-Sellers said developing a teacher education program was on her radar before taking over as the school's president in 2016.

"We know we have a need in South Georgia," Thompson-Sellers said. "And I know the University of North Georgia has a first-class program."

Thompson-Sellers said UNG's dual specialization in elementary and special education and its hands-on approach were attractive qualities. The SGSC president said having students placed in local South Georgia schools for hands-on training makes them less likely to leave for the bright lights of larger cities.

"If they're already there and have relationships, they're more likely to stay in our region," Thompson-Sellers said. "Our students and school systems are very excited to see this degree program brought to the Douglas and Waycross campuses."

She is looking forward to putting the agreement into action.

"We're very excited about our new partnership," Thompson-Sellers said. "And we know great things are going to happen with it."

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