Amherst County Public Schools is partnering with Liberty University and Sweet Briar College to develop an extended student teacher program aimed at grooming future educators for the division.

The pilot program set to begin this fall will take a handful of college students and split them evenly among secondary and elementary schools, according to a report Jim Gallagher, director of human resources, delivered to the Amherst County School Board during its May 10 meeting. Extended student teachers will begin their stints during the back to school workweek and continue their placement through graduation in December. They will work alongside a mentor teacher to organize and prepare for the opening of school and be provided with professional development opportunities the division offers.

Gallagher said Tuesday five candidates were selected and two more are under consideration. Once acclimated to the classroom, they will get the chance to serve as substitute teachers in their assigned school.

“It helps us identify outstanding teachers,” Gallagher said to board members.

The goal of the program, which doesn’t carry any cost, is to give them opportunities and attract and retain quality teachers in the Amherst school system, he said.

Superintendent Rob Arnold said the division has found new teachers’ main area of struggle is managing behavior.

The extended student teacher program will allow the candidates to observe the hard work of teachers to address students’ behavior during the first few weeks of school.

“They are going to make for better teachers when they get here,” Arnold said of the hands-on experience the program provides.

Gallagher said the division could expand it and look to add more universities.

Also during last Thursday’s meeting, Arnold reported on the school system’s efforts to explore more partnerships with Sweet Briar, which he described as a major part of the Amherst community. He said he recently met with SBC President Meredith Woo and they discussed a wide range of possibilities.

One area examined is the potential for dual enrollment opportunities for Amherst County High School students to take courses on campus.

A roadblock in the past was only females took part but that could change, according to Arnold.

“We wanted all our students to have access to it and they’re open to that,” Arnold said of dual enrollment.

Engineering and leadership are main areas of focus in the all-woman college’s curriculum, he said.

“I really feel like there are some good opportunities to engage with Sweet Briar,” Arnold said.

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Contact Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551 or jfaulconer@newsadvance.com.

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