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New partnership opens degree pathway for aspiring schoolteachers

BRCC teacher preparation student Liliana Martinez-Salgado is a Henderson County Education Foundation 'Grow Our Own' teaching scholarship recipient. [RICH KEEN/BRCC]

A new partnership of Blue Ridge Community College and Henderson County public schools opens multiple learning paths for aspiring early childhood and K-12 teachers.

Under the Teacher Preparation pathway, high school students can begin their training as early as eleventh or twelfth grade. Credits earned are useful toward two-year Blue Ridge associate degrees; these degrees are then fully transferable toward bachelor's degrees at well-known four-year institutions across the state. Students who follow through to a four-year degree gain a high-quality classroom-ready education at a fraction of the cost.

“A high school student can earn more than half of their associate degree before they walk across the stage at their high school graduation,” said Shelah Combs, an instructor of early childhood education and teacher preparation programs at Blue Ridge. “That associate degree then becomes the foundation for their four-year bachelor’s degree. It’s win-win for students who get a leg-up on their learning, and for the local community as university graduates return to serve as professional educators.”

The program at BRCC allows students to earn a two-year Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees. High school students may earn credit toward these degrees through two high school-based programs: Teaching as a Profession and Career & College Promise.

Teaching as a Profession (TaaP) is designed to teach high school students the workplace proficiencies required for Pre-K through twelfth grade settings, such as interpersonal skills, planning and effective teacher-student relationships. The three course sequence including TaaP I, TaaP II-Content and TaaP II-Field Experience stresses an authentic workplace experience and application of skills. Students completing Teaching as a Profession in high school with a grade of B or higher will receive credit for Blue Ridge’s EDU 187 course.

“Teaching as a Profession has allowed opportunities for our students interested in a career in education to explore educational theory and to apply that theory to practice,” said Scott Moore, the school system's director of middle schools and Career and Technical Education. “By allowing structured opportunities for students to get into elementary schools and learn what teaching is all about, we are helping them to sharpen their focus on their future careers. It is also our hope that, from these students, we will grow our own, and some of these amazing young people will be our future teachers in HCPS.”

Blue Ridge’s Career & College Promise (CCP) program includes specialized Teacher Preparation and Early Childhood Education pathways. With CCP, high school juniors and seniors can be dual-enrolled and meet high school graduation requirements while earning college credit for free. CCP courses can then be applied toward Blue Ridge’s Education certificates and degrees. Students also have the opportunity to earn a Blue Ridge Scholar graduation cord to be worn during their high school graduation ceremony. Each high school in Henderson and Transylvania County is assigned a Blue Ridge career coach to answer questions and help students get the most out of their education. Contact information for these coaches is available at

“Career and College Promise is a game-changer for families who are concerned about the costs of a college education,” said Dr. David Stegall, Blue Ridge’s chief of staff. “It put college within reach by saving students time and money, allowing them to enroll in rigorous tuition-free college courses while still enrolled in high school.”

In close partnership with a community coalition, HCEF developed the Grow Our Own Educational Assistance Fund to recruit current and former HCPS students interested in a career in education to train, develop and prepare to return to Henderson County to join the preschool or public school workforce. The coalition members include the Henderson County NAACP, El Centro Latino Advocacy Center, local churches, HCPS Teaching as a Profession teachers, and individual and corporate donors.

Each scholarship recipient may receive $3,000 each year, renewable up to four years, for a maximum of $12,000. Students enrolled at Blue Ridge Community College may choose to hold all or a portion of their scholarship money to carry over to a four-year college or university. Additionally, scholarship recipients are assigned a mentor to support them throughout their college career.

To learn more about the Grow Our Own scholarship, please call the Henderson County Education Foundation at 828.697.5551 or visit

Students and parents interested in learning more about Education and CCP programs at Blue Ridge Community College can visit and, or they can call the Admissions Office at 828-694-1800 for assistance.