Sonoma County Office of Education

In continued effort to address teacher shortage, low-interest loans for future educators

03/17/2016 -

Contacts: Karen Ricketts, Director for the North Coast School of Education, 707/524-2814
Dave Williams, VP of Marketing and HR for Community First Credit Union, 707/543-2623, direct.

North Coast School of Education teams up with Community First Credit Union to offer low-interest loans to teacher interns

The North Coast School of Education has teamed up with Community First Credit Union to offer low-interest loans that will cover nearly all the tuition costs of future teachers who are enrolled in an innovative teacher-intern program.

In order to address a statewide teaching crisis and provide more local training options for future educators, Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) created the North Coast School of Education (NCSOE) in the fall of 2015. The NCSOE launched an innovative “Be a Teacher” intern program in January of 2016. The intern program is designed to prepare teacher-interns for working in classrooms as paid teachers after completing certain prerequisites and 160 hours of initial training. Once hired, teacher-interns will continue with two years of coursework on nights and/or weekends. That’s compared to the more traditional setting, where teacher candidates must complete coursework and student teaching before entering the classroom as a paid teacher.

The new loan program, announced in March, will award up to two loans of $4,250 each to interns enrolled in the program who have received an offer of employment at a local school or school district. The total amount of the award, $8,500, covers nearly all of the interns’ tuition costs, further lowering the barrier to entry for would-be teachers. The loan rate will be locked at 4.29 percent, the same as the Stafford loan rate.

Karen Ricketts, director of the NCSOE, said a desire to help children by providing them with high-quality teachers has driven the creation of the innovative Be a Teacher program and the partnership to provide loans.

“It’s about attracting and recruiting teachers to the profession so districts can meet the needs of students,” Ricketts said. “If you keep the students in sight, you can work around all other obstacles.”

“Helping schools, teachers and students is our roots. After all, we were founded by seven Sonoma County teachers in 1961 as the Sonoma County Schools Credit Union. Today, Community First offers 0% agriculture loans to local students, a youth deposit account that pays up to 7.07% –– our local area code –– and we’ve conducted 150 in-class financial literacy presentations to local students,” said Todd Sheffield, CEO of Community First. “When SCOE asked for our help with its innovative teacher-intern program we were only too happy to lend a hand with a low-cost, flexible loan.”

Currently, 34 people are enrolled in the program and hope to begin receiving job offers after they complete required prerequisites and 160-hour training at the end of April. The NCSOE hopes to expand the programs to meet the impressive demand of 400 people who have expressed interest in participating. Being able to do so hinges on the school of education receiving the needed state accreditation. Currently, the program is being offered in partnership with the accredited Tulare County Office of Education as NCSOE seeks its own approval.

More details, as well as an application, can be found at