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UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State to prepare more teachers for elementary and special education through expansion of online teacher licensure program

A $200,000 grant from the SECU Foundation will advance the teacher licensure program and offer scholarships for North Carolina teachers

Exterior view of Peabody Hall, home of the UNC School of Education, on January 30, 2019, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)
Exterior view of Peabody Hall, home of the UNC School of Education, on January 30, 2019, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

(Raleigh, N.C. –– May 2, 2019) – An online teacher licensure program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University will help fulfill the state’s need for licensed elementary and special education teachers thanks to a generous grant from the State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation.

The $200,000 grant will create new training modules in the existing Pathway to Practice NC online licensure program. The new modules will allow teachers to work towards specialized licensures in either elementary education or special education. The grant will also provide scholarships for 10 North Carolina teachers to complete the online training.

The state has experienced consistent teacher shortages in both special education and core subject elementary education for years. To manage these shortages, many North Carolina school districts fill the vacancies with residency licensed teachers: individuals with a bachelor’s degree and content knowledge, but without a full teaching license. To continue working as an educator, residency licensed teachers must complete coursework to earn their full teaching license within three years. According to the state’s report, North Carolina had 5,636 of these residency licensed teachers in 2018–– a 21% increase over the previous year. In 2017, UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Education and the NC State College of Education launched Pathway to Practice NC as one way to help these residency licensed teachers become fully licensed and stay in the classroom.

Pathway to Practice NC is a self-paced, competency-based online program designed for working adults to complete that required coursework and meet their licensure requirement from anywhere. The state-approved educator preparation program provides a competency-based online program for residency licensed teachers. Pathway to Practice NC provides facilitator coaches to both support and extend preparation that is tailored to residency license teachers’ needs.

“This funding from the SECU Foundation helps our partnership build capacity to address a growing need in North Carolina for teachers in critical content areas, and to do so by expanding a high-quality program that is designed to be responsive to the needs of working educators and schools,” said Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of the School of Education at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Mary Ann Danowitz, dean of the NC State College of Education, said: “Thanks to the SECU Foundation, Pathway to Practice NC will be able to support more career changers and prepare them to become highly effective teachers. This is a critical investment because we know that teachers are the most influential school-based factor on student success, and the SECU Foundation is providing resources to attract and retain talented individuals who will improve the lives of K-12 students across the state, especially in high-need school districts.”

In addition to developing new, specialized training content, the grant from the SECU Foundation will also fund scholarships for 10 individuals who want to become fully licensed to teach in special education and elementary education. Scholarship priority will be given to those who would bring their new skillset to Tier 1 communities, the 40 most economically distressed counties in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s annual ranking of all 100 counties.

“North Carolina has a growing need for fully licensed educators in elementary education and special education,” said Bob Brinson, SECU Foundation Board Chair. “We are hopeful that this investment will help fill that gap, and do so in a way that is cost effective and convenient for educators who can benefit from this program.”

The Pathway to Practice NC program currently enrolls 70 residency license teachers from across the state. Enrollment in the program costs $5,000. For more information, visit this site.


About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 74 bachelor’s, 104 master’s, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools including the College of Arts & Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s nearly 330,000 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories and 161 countries. More than 178,000 live in North Carolina.

About NC State University

NC State was founded with a purpose: to create economic, societal and intellectual prosperity for the people of North Carolina and the country. The university began as a land-grant institution teaching the agricultural and mechanical arts, and today stands as a pre-eminent research enterprise that excels in science, technology, engineering, math, design, the humanities and social sciences, education, textiles and veterinary medicine. NC State students, faculty and staff take problems in hand and work with industry, government and nonprofit partners to solve them. The university’s 34,000-plus high-performing students apply what they learn in the real world by conducting research, working in internships and co-ops, and performing acts of world-changing service. That experiential education ensures they leave here ready to lead the workforce, confident in the knowledge that NC State consistently rates as one of the best values in higher education.

About SECU and the SECU Foundation

A not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its members, SECU has been providing employees of the State of North Carolina and their families with consumer financial services for over 81 years.  The Credit Union also offers a diversified line of financial advisory services including retirement and education planning, tax preparation, insurance, trust and estate planning services, and investments through its partners and affiliated entities.  SECU serves over 2.4 million members through 265 branch offices, nearly 1,100 ATMs, 24/7 Member Services via phone and a website, The SECU Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization funded by the contributions of SECU members, promotes local community development in North Carolina primarily through high impact projects in the areas of housing, education, healthcare and human services.  Since 2004, SECU Foundation has made a collective financial commitment of more than $154 million for initiatives to benefit North Carolinians statewide.


University Communications: Media Relations (919) 445-8555,


Office of University Development: Lisa Marie Ferrell, (919) 962-5247,


SECU Foundation: Jama Campbell, (919) 839-5562,