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The Highline Public Schools in Washington have recently been recognized as a national model for training bilingual teachers, providing opportunities for bilingual paraprofessionals to earn teaching certificates. The program offers solutions to address the nationwide shortage of qualified bilingual certified teachers.

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“I was a little skeptical at first because I heard the statistics,” said Juan Ruiz Velasco, a bilingual instructional aid at the Central District school. “After five years, teachers burn out. And I didn’t necessarily want to go back to school, spend thousands of dollars and realize this isn’t what I wanted to do.”

Last year, after taking time to consider his choices and encouragement from teachers, he signed up for the program in the Highline schools, which allows bilingual paraprofessionals to receive state scholarships for earning teaching certificates.

The small program has started with just 17 students. However, by offering a creative solution to teacher shortages, it is becoming noticed nationwide.

Last week, the New America Foundation released a report offering states and districts a blueprint to copy the Highline program.

“I was absolutely blown away by the scope and depth of the program,” said report author Amaya Garcia.

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