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Impact Story: West Virginia: Supporting Grow Your Own Pathways to Strengthen the Teacher Workforce

Teacher supply is down overall in West Virginia. One challenge of placing an effective teacher in every classroom is the continued decline in teacher preparation enrollment across the state. Between school years 2009–10 and 2017–18, West Virginia saw a 53 percent decline in the number of individuals entering teacher preparation programs (Saunders 2021).

In November 2020, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) were charged with Solving the Teacher Shortage in West Virginia Collaboratively by clearly defining and identifying mechanisms to address the multifaceted challenges that face teacher recruitment and preparation in West Virginia. The Region 5 Comprehensive Center (R5CC) worked with the WVDE to facilitate the work of the Educator Preparation Taskforce. The efforts of the Taskforce resulted in the publication of the Educator Preparation Taskforce Report, which recommended that WVDE, in conjunction with a variety of stakeholders, identify opportunities to significantly minimize teacher preparation and certification costs in order to increase the number of candidates entering the field through the traditional pathway. A priority task to address this recommendation was to “incentivize grow-your-own programs that offset preparation costs for highly promising high school juniors and seniors.”

The R5CC staff was instrumental in facilitating the Educator Preparation Taskforce and drafting the final report.

State education agency (SEA) staff

Following this recommendation, in 2022, WVDE launched its TeachWV campaign promoting Grow Your Own Pathway, which was designed to address West Virginia’s critical need for teachers by providing promising high school students an accelerated path to pursue a career in education. It gives students a fast track into the education field through a combination of dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses. Students can then graduate with a bachelor’s degree in just 3 years (Grow Your Own Pathway []). Beyond acceleration, benefits to students include tuition-free dual credit courses and free access to the Core Praxis exam in year 2. Grow Your Own students also have free 12-month access to Core Praxis preparation resources courtesy of As of fall 2023, Grow Your Own programs were being piloted in 37 West Virginia counties (see Figure 1). Eight of those counties’ programs incorporate an apprenticeship model, which provides students with wage-earning field experiences that prepare them for a teaching career while alleviating financial burden.

To support the implementation and evaluation of Grow Your Own Pathway, R5CC worked with a collaborative team from WVDE, county school systems, and educator preparation programs at a special Powered by Teach to Lead event in October 2022. Over 3 days, R5CC staff used their subject matter expertise in Grow Your Own (GYO) programs to facilitate sessions on logic model development and refinement with the team. The team left the event with an implementation-ready logic model focused on GYO and a refined framework for their project, including strategies and specific activities (see Supporting Grow Your Own (GYO) Programs in West Virginia).

While Grow Your Own Pathway is in an early stage of implementation, it has been garnering attention across the state by recruiting high school students amidst the teacher shortage and demonstrating promise in year 1 (also see MCTEC’s “Grow Your Own” Program Aims to Address Teacher Shortage [] and On Track to Launch This Fall - West Virginia Public Broadcasting []). More than 260 students are currently enrolled. Voices from the field offer further insights into their experiences so far.


» Stakeholders are committed to affecting positive change in the state: Being part of an effective solution is empowering.

One Grow Your Own student revealed, “I’ve experienced the problems in our county. Like in the middle of a school year, you’re having a good year and you’re learning and all of a sudden, a teacher leaves and there is no one to replace them. It’s really discouraging as a student, especially one that really cares about education … I would like to help fix that problem and … help contribute to stability that I never had.”

Another student shared a similar sentiment, “… without having actual certified teachers … I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of education.”

» Grow Your Own Pathway addresses teacher shortage without reducing the standards for the profession.

An educator preparation program administrator shared, “One of my professional struggles has been trying to make sure institutions have high levels of rigor in teacher preparation, and that we can produce these individuals who will go into a classroom and make an impact on our students. GYO felt like such a breath of fresh air because it was addressing getting students funding for some of the cost of college and getting them to enter the profession essentially a year earlier. It’s rethinking the way we give people access to that high level, that rigor of curriculum.”

» Grow Your Own Pathway is breaking down barriers, empowering students, and developing the West Virginia workforce.

This an opportunity for us to level the playing field for our students. This program allows us to remove barriers so that our students who are our brightest and our best can pursue education, be able to make a living, and be able to contribute back to their community. And I love the idea that this initiative has the potential to make a difference in the lives of a lot of West Virginians. Because this is not just an education issue—it is a workforce development issue. Because we can prepare you to stay where you love and make a good salary and be productive and contribute back to your community.

Director, Educator Development and Support, West Virginia Department of Education

Next Steps to Support WVDE

The R5CC continues to work with the WVDE to identify and develop implementation resources and supports. Future GYO resources will be available at Comprehensive Center Network Region 5. R5CC will facilitate engagement with and between stakeholders implementing GYO models to ensure they are part of the state and national dialogues around leveraging these innovative programs to continue to attract high-quality candidates into the field. The GYO program also dovetails into West Virginia’s Teacher Residency Model, since GYO students participate in a yearlong residency in year 3. In addition to developing several resources, including Considerations for Matching Residents with Cooperating Teachers and Building a Better Data System for Teacher Supply, Demand, and Preparation, R5CC will be working with stakeholders to support implementation of the West Virginia Residency Model.


Saunders, R. (2021). Preparing West Virginia’s Teachers: Opportunities in Teacher Licensure and Program Approval. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.


This R5CC Impact Story is also available as a downloadable PDF. Get your copy here