A pathway to teaching in the North Country

WMCC-PSU program allows future teachers to learn, live and work in the region

Alicia Vaillancourt-Locke graduated from Gorham High School in 2011. Today, she teaches third grade at Groveton Elementary School with the help of a grant that allowed her to finish her studies in the North Country.

The grant, issued through the North Country Teacher Certification Program, really helped her pursue her career, Vaillancourt-Locke said.

“One of the wonderful benefits of being part (of NCTCP) is being able to maintain a job to help pay for bills that come with living off campus and paying for college independently,” Vaillancourt-Locke said.

The program helps student teachers in the North Country, and it has just been renewed. For the sixth time since 2007, the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund has awarded the North Country Teacher Certification Program a targeted stipend grant for students enrolled in NCTCP.

“This is exciting news,” said Brian Walker, the NCTCP program director. He added that the $66,000 grant will provide support stipends of up to $5,000 to help defray costs associated with student teaching at North Country schools.

Launched in 2005, NCTCP is a collaboration between Plymouth State University and White Mountains Community College in Berlin. The program was designed to provide teacher training education opportunities to place-bound students in the North Country. Without leaving the North Country, students can earn a bachelor’s degree and K-8 teacher certification upon graduation from the program.

Walker, part of the program since 2008, said the two-year cohort program of three semesters of classes and one semester of student teaching has proven successful in meeting the need for highly qualified elementary school teachers in the North Country.

“We’ve tried to meet a few goals. This was created for students to get a bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s certification without having to go far,” Walker explained. “It was also designed to be affordable and to focus on older students who work and have families. The program has also evolved. Obviously, online learning has allowed us to increase our geographic reach.”

Walker said Vaillancourt-Locke graduated first from White Mountains Community College with an associates degree and then with honors when she earned her bachelor’s from Plymouth State University last May.

With more than a decade in place, NCTCP has become a quiet but impactful success story. Walker said that graduates of the program have gone on to teaching and administrative leadership positions. According to program data supplied by Walker, 59 students enrolled in cohorts one through five beginning in 2005:

 • 52 graduated (88 percent rate)

 • 50 graduated on time (96 percent rate for graduates)

 • Coos County schools with NCTCP graduates include: Brown and Hillside elementary schools in Berlin; Gorham Middle School; Groveton elementary and middle schools; Lancaster Elementary School; Strafford Elementary School; Whitefield Elementary School; Strafford Public School; and White Mountains High School (Career and Technical Education).

There are also Coos County residents teaching at elementary schools in Bethlehem and Lunenburg, Vt.

Student teaching requires an extra level of commitment and time and Walker said dozens of graduates have benefited during their student teacher phase from the grant. During the spring of 2016, Vaillancourt-Locke was a fifth-grade student teacher at Groveton Elementary School.

“The Tillotson stipend made it possible for me to pay rent and bills, buy groceries, provide myself with the proper attire of a teacher, and afford the gas to travel back and forth to my internship,” Vaillancourt-Locke said.

After graduation, Groveton hired her to be the school’s third-grade teacher.

Walker said the program is not only successful in helping to make the overall program work, but it is changing lives and creating the next generation of public education leaders in the North Country.

“There are a number of emerging leaders in schools throughout northern New Hampshire whose success can be tied directly to these Tillotson stipends,” he said. “These stipends support students during a critical period at the start of their teaching careers.” 

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