Applications for the 2020-2021 ESD-U cohort are due on Friday, May 1.

As ESD-U prepares to wrap up its second year this summer, the alternative route to teacher certification program is marking its successes and looking forward to even greater things ahead. Since the program’s inaugural cohort of educators began their training in 2018, nearly 100 new and current educators have gained a new or additional teaching certification in the areas of special education, English language learning, reading, and elementary education.

In addition to fostering a grow-your-own teacher certification model, in which ESD 112 partners with school districts to provide their current staff with this unique certification pathway, ESD-U is working to respond to a range of needs impacting Washington school districts. In a survey conducted by ESD 112 in 2019, nine school districts serving 89,000 students in Clark and Cowlitz Counties identified diversification of the educator workforce as a top priority in their workforce development efforts.

“When so many of our districts identified teacher diversification as a top priority, we wanted to act,” said Mike Esping, ESD 112’s director of educator effectiveness and program director of ESD-U. “As we work to meet the unique needs of our districts, it’s important for us to ensure we’re providing equitable opportunities for obtaining teacher certification in Washington.”

In February of this year, a committee of prominent community and nonprofit leaders, current and former ESD-U participants, and higher education professionals, assembled by ESD-U leadership, began meeting to develop ways to contribute to greater diversity among the teaching profession in Washington. The group has been meeting monthly by video conference calls to support social distancing to discuss best practices for working toward increased workforce diversity. This includes talking about current issues and why teacher diversity is so important for the overall health and wellbeing of students, their schools, and their communities.

“It’s important for ESD-U and other education programs to work towards teacher workforce diversification because we need to provide students with teachers and an educational environment that reflects their reality,” said Allan Brown, an ESD-U participant and teacher in Kelso School District, as well as a member of the ESD-U workforce diversification committee. “We have to provide students with more teachers that can relate to them and the minority instead of just the majority.”

Nearly two dozen school districts in Southwest Washington have been represented in ESD-U candidates over the past two years. In its third cohort, ESD-U will complete teacher certification for 50-70 new candidates, who will be qualified to teach in a variety of subject areas in Washington State.

ESD-U is committed to making the pathway to teacher certification in Washington as accessible as possible. With the help of state funding, ESD-U was able to offer $100,000 in scholarships for participants of the 2019-2020 cohort, and will be able to offer up to $150,000 in scholarships for members of next year’s cohort.

For more information about the ESD-U program and to read about our work, visit