How Orange County Public Schools is training students to become future teachers

With the school year ending soon, districts will be busy working to fill thousands of teaching – and substitute teaching – positions across the state.

Orange County Public Schools, which expects to see 800 vacancies next year, said it is looking at long-term solutions, including training current students in hopes they will return to teach after college.

"If you can hear my voice clap two times," said Luani Crayton, a student-teacher at Ivey Lane Elementary. "Alright, here's what we're going to do." 

She grabs the attention of the class. But, she's not a teacher – not yet at least.

"I feel like I'm going to make a difference. Change the upcoming generation," she said.

She is part of the first graduating class of the "Future Teachers Magnet" program at Edgewater High School.  She also comes from a family of education leaders who work for Orange County Public Schools – her mom, her sister, and her brother. 

Ten students are expected to graduate this year, another ten are in the sophomore-junior class, and 19 others are enrolled in the freshmen class.

The program is in partnership with the University of Central Florida (UCF), where students are recruited as 8th graders and begin taking education classes in 9th grade to learn how to manage a classroom and write lesson plans.

Students are dual-enrolled at Valencia College where they can receive college credit.

"We want to hook students when they're in high school because that's when they're making decisions," said Norine Blanch, an associate lecturer at UCF. 

The district hopes the program encourages students to pursue teaching and eventually teach in the very classrooms and district they were taught a few years earlier.

"The goal of this magnet program is to be able to have them take seats in OCPS classrooms," said Linda Eneas, coordinator of the Center for Future Educators Magnet. 

Some students said they planned to finish up their initial credits at Valencia before transferring into UCF's education program.