Center For Teacher Innovation Education Specialist Intern Program
Riverside County Office of Education
Sara Bailey started her career as a social services aide for a non-profit organization after graduating from college with a degree in sociology.
After 15 years in that career, she started looking for another job where she could spend more time with family—potentially in the school system so that she could have the summers free like her husband who works for Springs Charter Schools.
With previous experience working with students with significant disabilities, Sara was hired by Springs Charter Schools as a one-on-one aide to work with special education students.
“I knew that any time I would be able to help a student connect their world and their education, it was going to be a fantastic situation for me,” Sara said. “I fell in love with the process of helping students right away.”
At her Springs Charter School site in Hemet in 2017, Sara was approached by a human resources staff member to see she’d be interested in becoming a teacher as part of a new grant-funded program offered by the Riverside County Office of Education.
The program, called the California Classified to Classroom Pipeline to Teaching (C3P2T) Program, provides up to $3,200 per year for existing school classified employees in 16 local school districts to fund their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree or a teaching credential. Sara was accepted at the last minute and continued working full-time while she furthered her own education.
As she reached year two in the program, she had to identify where she wanted to focus her studies.
“I had been researching college and university programs for my teaching credential and hadn’t found one that fit my schedule or my budget,” Sara said. “I knew that I would probably become a special education teacher, and Dr. Beverly Bricker told me about the Center For Teacher Innovation’s (CTI) Education Specialist Intern Program.”
Sara described the initial time commitment as scary, but that the tuition was reasonable and the program was consolidated and concise. She entered the program while working full-time teaching a special education class of elementary students at Springs Charter School’s site in Hemet.
“The teachers in the program went out of their way to help us know that we could do it. They understood we were jumping in head-first into education and into special education as a career,” Sara said. “The program really prepared us for those challenges and supported us in the areas where we weren’t prepared. The support that we received was greater than I would have received at a college.”
As is often the case with new teachers, unexpected challenges arise with students, co-workers, or parents. Sara relied on the availability of the CTI team to work through every issue, but also found support in her classmates.
“The support within our cohort was really fantastic because we could share our experiences. We could laugh, and we could cry. But, then, we could collaborate on ways we could get through those situations,” Sara said. “There was support for us—both as students and as professionals who are working full-time.”
An added benefit of the program became evident during the pandemic-induced school closures when all teachers had to pivot exclusively to remote learning.
“All of the tech components that they worked into the program, and all the equity pieces in creating lesson plans, really helped us with this time of uncertainty,” Sara said. “Where many of our co-workers weren’t familiar with the current technology and platforms to make education possible remotely, our training from the program put us at the forefront in a lot of our districts.”
As the latest group of interns prepares to graduate on Saturday, May 30, Sara will be one of the honored speakers as the second year intern program student of the year and recipient of the Kevin Tibbetts Award. The award is named for a CTI employee who passed suddenly in 2019 who was a strong supporter of education and the intern program.
The criteria for being selected was based on traits that Kevin encompassed and exhibited such as: Promoting positive morale for fellow interns, fostering community by building bridges for fellow interns, acting in a humanitarian way, seeking opportunities to share valuable resources, and serving as a role model to influence others in completing the program.
Sara was nominated for the award by her fellow students in the cohort. During their time together, Sara became known for writing notes to those in the program who looked down, or who were facing struggles.
“It was usually, when I was having my worst days, so I figured that others could also use a pick-me-up,” Sara said. “So I would write a note to encourage others as much as possible to give them a bright spot to their day.”
When she found out she was selected for the award, she began to cry.
“Kevin would give us insight, have a joke for us, and always come with resources to share with us. He was so kind and supportive and genuinely cared for how we were doing,” Sara said. “I was humbled by being selected for this award.”
Sara plans to continue her studies to continue improving how she works with students in the mild-to-moderate disability area and possibly move into learning how to work with moderate-to-severe students and pursue a master’s degree.
As she prepares her graduation speech, Sara is reflective on the support she has received along the way.
“I really want to thank the RCOE staff for everything they’ve done to support us—with everything from paperwork to test preparation,” Sara said. “And, I really want to communicate how much I appreciate our cohort group of students and how close-knit we are.”