Compared to this time last year, most parents have a far greater appreciation for school teachers.

Anyone who has helped a child log into a virtual classroom from home and attempted to assist with long division or science class recognizes like never before the value of those who’ve dedicated their lives to educating young people in Western North Carolina.

To help prepare the next generation of educators, Southwestern Community College is introducing an Associate in Arts – Teacher Preparation pathway this spring.

“Aspiring teachers can get the first two years of college credit while staying close to home and saving thousands of dollars at Southwestern,” said Barbara Putman, SCC’s dean of Arts and Sciences. “Teachers touch all of our lives. They are vital to our communities and to our future. We hope anyone who’s been inspired to pursue this fulfilling profession will enroll this spring.”

One SCC graduate who was glad to hear about the new opportunity is Pauletta Clark, a third-grade teacher at Iotla Elementary in Macon County and a Regional Finalist for the 2016 N.C. Teacher of the Year Award.

“I think it is great that SCC is offering this new pathway,” said Clark, who graduated from Southwestern in 2001. “I found the smaller class sizes for those first two years of undergraduate education really helped prepare me for the more-focused courses that came later when I attended Western Carolina University. I felt supported 100 percent of the time.”

There’s still time to enroll for SCC’s spring semester, which starts Jan. 11.

SCC will be closed for the holidays until Jan. 3, but prospective students can start the application process anytime at