South Piedmont Community College Celebrates New TeachUCPS Program, Sees Partnerships as a Path for Growth for NC Community Colleges

South Piedmont Community College (SPCC) recently announced TeachUCPS, a partnership with Union County Public Schools (UCPS) and Wingate University, to create opportunities to grow the teacher pipeline locally.


SPCC President Dr. Pharr (left), UCPS Superintendent Dr. Drew Houlihan (middle), and Wingate University President Dr. Rhett Brown (right) stand together at the joint press conference on February 8 in Weddington Middle School.

The TeachUCPS program creates multiple pathways for individuals to more easily complete the education and training needed to become licensed elementary, middle, and high school teachers. These programs solve the immediate teacher shortage facing UCPS and allow them to attract, credential, and retain talented educators in Union County.

TeachUCPS: New Pathways for Certified Teachers in Union County

South Piedmont’s partnership with UCPS and Wingate University builds on foundational collaborations, such as Career & College Promise, robust articulation agreements between the three schools, and guaranteed admissions from South Piedmont to Wingate through the Road2Wingate program.

“Students attending Union County high schools can enter one of three pathways that give them opportunities for on-the-job training and access to college courses at South Piedmont,” Russell Carpenter, Director of Apprenticeships and Work-Based Learning, said. “By implementing a pre-apprenticeship model, we can offer high school students real-world experiences in classroom settings that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

South Piedmont Community College directly supports two pathways through the program. The Associate’s Pathway allows high school students to participate in the Career & College Promise program, which dually enrolls them in high school and South Piedmont. Students in this pathway would enroll in the Road2Wingate program, which gives SPCC associate degree graduates guaranteed admission and progressive access to Wingate resources while earning their associate degree tuition-free. Associate’s Pathway students are also eligible for the Gateway Scholarship, which caps tuition at Wingate at $2,500 per year for the two years needed to complete their bachelor’s degree and licensure.

The Pre-Apprenticeship Pathway allows current teaching assistants and high school students to participate in pre-apprenticeship programming, allowing these students to attend South Piedmont for their two-year degree tuition-free while concurrently working at UCPS as a teacher assistant. From there, students attend Wingate University through the Road2Wingate program at the capped tuition rate of $2,500 per year.

“Our collaboration with Union County Public Schools and Wingate University will remove financial and accessibility obstacles for our high school students that wish to pursue a career in education,” Carpenter said.

These pathways help students accelerate their education and put highly trained teachers into UCPS classrooms within 2-4 years, depending on which path students choose. While both of these programs allow students to earn their Associate’s degree tuition-free at South Piedmont, UCPS is developing a tuition assistance program to cover the tuition at Wingate if students commit to teaching three years at a Union County Title 1 school or four years at other Union County schools upon earning their teaching certificate.

“Our goal is to create seamless educational pathways for the community that meets critical labor market needs,” Dr. Maria Pharr, President of South Piedmont Community College, said.

To do this, South Piedmont has been looking for ways to partner with nearby organizations, like UCPS, Wingate, and local businesses, to provide opportunities like TeachUCPS.

“We see partnership and cooperation as necessary to expand educational access and programming,” Dr. Pharr said. “By working together, we can create local opportunities for high school graduates and adult learners to earn a credential and grow their careers seamlessly and efficiently. It’s a win-win-win for public schools, higher education, and our students.”

South Piedmont has experienced record growth recently, which leaders attribute to innovations and programs that improve access, affordability and quality across the board. Alongside programming collaborations like the Road2Wingate program and accelerated pathways like TeachUCPS, the College has been investing in technologies designed to create flexibility and reduce barriers to success for all students.

These investments include Hy-Flex classroom technology, which allows students to select their learning modality (in-person, live online, recorded online) based on their needs, and BibliU, which provides predictable, affordable textbooks college-wide.

“Demand for education never goes away; people are hungry to learn, ready to improve their skills, and eager to advance their careers,” Dr. Pharr said. “Our job as a college is to create quality programming that prepares students for the future and an environment for them to be successful. We’re proud of how we have achieved this at South Piedmont.”


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