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SPS/ODU Career Switcher Partnership - Becky Liddell

Becky Liddell has been a paraprofessional for the past 3 years, working as a kindergarten teaching assistant at Northern Shores Elementary School. Prior to her career with Suffolk Public Schools, she worked as a case manager for a community services board. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. 8 years into her career, she decided it was time for a change.

“I really wanted this. I felt passionate about it. I know it’s where I’m supposed to be,” Liddell said. “I just love teaching elementary so much, I can’t imagine doing anything but that.”

SPS recently began a partnership with Old Dominion University’s Career Switcher program. The intensive 15-week program teaches impending teachers all things classroom management, effective instruction, and designing lesson plans and curricula.

“ODU has one of the few alternative licensing programs in Virginia,” Liddell proclaimed. “Their career switching program is a big draw all over the state.”

Requirements for eligibility into ODU’s program are a bachelor's degree from an accredited higher learning institution, completion of VDOE required undergraduate courses and passing scores from 3 state licensing exams.

“I knew I needed to find something that wasn’t full-time, a program that I could do in the evenings or on the weekends. I heard about career switcher, which was perfect for that. It’s designed for people who are working full-time.”

The cost of the program is a lot less than going back to school to get another degree, but it’s still a significant amount. Suffolk Public Schools’ partnership allows for current paraprofessionals and long-term substitute teachers to enter ODU’s Career Switcher program worry-free, while SPS pays their full tuition. This makes it a lot more affordable for potential teachers wanting to switch the trajectory of their careers to full-time, in-class instruction.

Becky Liddell is the first to be accepted into the program under the new partnership. “I had already known about the program. I had already taken some courses and I was looking forward to eventually [enrolling], at some point. But the partnership was a catalyst to go, ok, so now there is sort of a path forward through my employment.”

Suffolk Public Schools strongly believes in developing and investing in its staff. In addition to tuition assistance, Liddell has access to additional resources and guidance from SPS staff as well. “Not having a disconnect between your work and this program, but having a bridge between them, has made it easier.”

Pending her completion of the career switcher program in May, Mrs. Liddell has been hired as a first-grade teacher at Northern Shores Elementary School, starting in the Fall of 2023.