The exterior of Seward High School, a red brick building with an entrance made of glass windows and doors, and grey and stone-colored blocks. The grass is just turning green, two trees are blooming with white flowers and the sky overhead is bright blue with wispy clouds.
Seward High School is one of around a dozen schools in Nebraska that are offering students dual-credit courses taught by Doane faculty.

Counselor Kevin Fields wasn’t surprised that several dozen students quickly signed up for Seward High School’s two newest dual-credit courses while registering for their 2023-24 classes. The school offers a smorgasbord of college-level courses — AP and dual-credit, taught through partnerships with area colleges and universities — and students take advantage of them in both preparing for college and gaining cost-effective college credit.

“She [Erin May, Doane University director of extended learning opportunities] knew Seward High has a number of students who want to take college courses in high school,” Fields said. “And that they would do well in them.”

The new courses are the Foundations of Education and Introduction to Exceptional Learners. They’re two of five courses offered as part of Doane’s Educator Pipeline Collaborative (EPiC) dual-credit pathway, which provide high school students with an opportunity to explore teaching as a future profession.

The school is one of 12 – and possibly more — Nebraska high schools that will offer new dual-credit courses from Doane this fall. Students at Seward, Raymond Central High School, Meridian Public Schools, Tri-County Public Schools, Beatrice High School, Crete High School, Norris High School, Alma High School, Thayer Central, Cedar Bluffs, Sidney Public Schools and Wahoo High School, as well as homeschooled students, will have access to classes online, on-ground with Doane faculty at the high school or on-ground with high school faculty hired as Doane adjuncts to teach courses.

Doane currently has three course pathways for schools — and students — to choose from: the Doane Core, which offers a variety of gen-ed courses; the EPiC pathway and Exercise Science.

All five courses in the EPiC pathway are also available at no cost to any student enrolled at Crete High School, or at a high school served by Educational Service Units 5 and 6. Seward Public Schools are in ESU 6. The tuition waiver is funded by an Educator Shortage Grant received from the Nebraska Department of Education.

Free tuition is one of the reasons Seward High School added two of the EPiC courses to its fall options for juniors and seniors. But it wasn’t the only reason.

“We’re just very excited to have the partnership with Doane University and ESU 6 through the grant to be able to offer this to our students,” said Dr. Josh Fields, superintendent of Seward Public Schools. “With the shortage of educators across our state, we felt like we needed to do something, and this was a great way to address that shortage within our own building but also for kids to get excited about the power of teaching and just the importance of education across our state.”

Seeing 40 students sign up was encouraging — if even just half of those students go on to become educators, Dr. Fields said, “it would be great.”

“One thing I’ve always noticed with our kids is that they’re very good students and they’ve been taught by very good teachers. So they know what that looks like, and they want to emulate it,” Kevin Fields said.

That’s exactly why senior Camden Baldessano registered for the Foundations course. He’ll join 21 other students in the fall semester to learn basic educational principles directly from Doane faculty, who will teach the course in-person at a Seward High classroom.

“I want to be an art teacher, so I thought it would be a good step toward becoming that,” Baldessano said. “Art teacher has always been stuck in my mind because I’ve had a lot of good art teachers. I just want to pass that down and teach a new generation of people about art.”

Along with the students enrolled in the Foundations of Education course in fall, 11 additional students are enrolled in the Exceptional Learners course for the spring semester.

Dalaney Anderson hopes to add her name to the course roster, too. She and teammate Coral Collins — both are seniors and play softball for the Seward Bluejays — already took one education class through Seward and immediately knew they wanted to take the Doane courses.

“My dad, he’s a teacher too, so I’ve always had a good role model,” Anderson said. He also attended Doane, she said, so it would be cool to start on the same path as him.

They both appreciated that a Doane faculty member would be teaching the courses at Seward, and that they’d be in a classroom full of students similarly motivated to go into education. And it’s a great head start on the courses they’ll take once in college.

“I like having it all year round, versus just one semester. I’ll have a few months off in the summer, then I jump right back into it in college,” Collins said, of signing up for both courses.