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LeShawna Coleman and Gemayel Keyes featured in American Educator: Philadelphia's Paraprofessional-to-Teacher Pipeline

December 2022

In the Winter issue of American Educator, PFT staff representative LeShawna Coleman and teacher resident Gemayel Keyes delve into the PFT paraprofessionals pathway program. 

A must read:

The long-simmering teacher shortage has become a crisis. Even before the pandemic, austerity budgets had been driving educators—and all school staff—into other careers. Long hours, high stress, lack of respect, and woefully inadequate resources: all of these challenges only grew once COVID-19 hit. Now, teachers are expected to do even more—accelerate learning while helping whole families heal—without the supports they and their students need. These conditions are driving many educators away. But there’s one group who knows about all of these challenges and still wants to become teachers: our paraprofessionals. They are already in our classrooms educating and caring for our students.

To make it easier for paraprofessionals in Philadelphia to complete their coursework and student teaching, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) negotiated a new paraprofessional-to-teacher program with multiple pathways so that each paraprofessional would get the right level of support. Here, we learn from two instigators of that program: Gemayel Keyes, an experienced paraprofessional who highlighted the need for such a program and is now in it as a teacher resident, and LeShawna Coleman, a master teacher turned PFT staff representative who has been a key architect of the program.


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