After years of leaning on South Carolina's alternative-certification programs to recruit nontraditional teachers into the profession, the Charleston County School District has decided to grow its own.

TeachCharleston, a three-year certification program, would bring non-education majors and people looking for a career change to teach math, science and English in the district's middle and high schools.

Amid a worsening statewide teacher shortage, TeachCharleston recently became the ninth alternative certification program approved by the state of South Carolina.

TeachCharleston is the second locally run alternative-certification program after Greenville County's GATE program. Both are modeled after the state-run Program for Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE).

Other approved certification routes include privately run programs like Teach for America and Teachers of Tomorrow, as well as subject-specific programs like Montessori Initial Certification.

The share of teachers in Charleston County who entered the profession via alternative certification — as opposed to a traditional four-year degree program in education — has been on the rise for the past three school years. According to the district's application to the State Board of Education, which approved TeachCharleston on March 18, new teachers pursuing alternative certification accounted for 7 percent of teaching staff in 2014.

That figure rose to 13 percent in the current academic year.

Applicants who have a bachelor's degree with a 2.75 GPA and 21 credit hours in the relevant subject area will have the opportunity to start working in a classroom this fall. If they complete the required coursework and pass their classroom observations and other assessments within three years, they can earn a standard teacher certification from the state.

"A businessperson or chemist who has the coursework, they know the content. We teach them how to teach," said Bill Briggman, the school district's chief human resources officer.

South Carolina's Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement highlights the grim statistics of the teacher shortage every year in its teacher supply reports. Spokesman Todd Scholl said one of the central struggles for districts is to recruit quality teachers — and then keep them from moving or quitting the profession.

"We’re not just looking for people to fill vacancies, just like USC isn’t looking for any football player. … We need quality people in these positions," Scholl said.

For more information about the TeachCharleston program, send an email to

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546. Follow him on Twitter @paul_bowers.