news-category: College of Education

Gardner-Webb’s Online Degree in Elementary Education Achieves Rapid Growth

Teacher Assistants Adriene Crego, left, and Nicole Childers are earning their elementary education degrees at Gardner-Webb.
Teacher Assistants Adriene Crego, left, and Nicole Childers are earning their elementary education degrees at Gardner-Webb.

Program Helps Teacher Assistants Obtain Bachelor’s Degrees; One-Stop Registration Held on May 6

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—In 2019, Gardner-Webb University’s College of Education launched the Teacher Assistant (TA) to Teacher Program in response to meeting the critical teacher shortage in North Carolina. Since then, enrollment in the online degree program in Elementary Education has grown from 71 to 172 students.

Several factors contribute to the program’s popularity, noted College of Education Dean and Professor Dr. Prince Bull. Offered fully online, the bachelor’s program includes a support system for students. In addition to instructors, students have access to mentors, program assessors and other advisors.

Prince Bull
Dr. Prince Bull

“Our online program’s key components are our customer service, trust, care, retention strategies, and knowledgeable faculty,” Bull stated. “The faculty understands andragogy—how to prepare adult learners—for academic success. In addition to ensuring mastery of competencies, we consistently maintain a high pass rate in all licensure exams.”

Also contributing to the program’s growth is the development of partnerships with area school systems. Dr. Lane Wesson, GWU professor of education and coordinator of teacher education, noted, “The College of Education has a strong relationship with Gaston County Schools and has provided an avenue for their current TA and Residency candidates to attend virtual classes in the evenings. We hope to develop similar partnerships with other public-school systems who want to support their TAs and hire them in local schools.”

Bull shared that Gardner-Webb’s program receives high marks from teacher candidates as reported on the North Carolina Department of Instruction’s Educator Preparation Program Dashboard. “Gardner-Webb University leads all Education Preparation Programs with 89% candidate satisfaction in the average percentage of teaching tasks for which they were ‘well’ or ‘very well’ prepared,” he offered, “GWU ranks as the #2 Education Preparation Program in North Carolina in overall employer satisfaction, earning 98% on the percentage of teaching tasks candidates performed as ‘well’ or ‘better than average’ first-year teachers (2020-2022).”

Nicole Childers

Two Gardner-Webb students, currently in their student-teaching semester, agree with their peers’ assessments. Nicole Childers, who lives in Alexander County, N.C., has been a TA for nine years, serving in regular, Exceptional Children and alternative settings. Adriene Crego, lives in Shelby, N.C., and has worked in Cleveland County Schools for more than 10 years—the last six as a TA for Exceptional Children.

Childers said from her first day of student teaching, she was prepared for the classroom. “I have been able to take what I have learned and implement it into my student teaching semester,” she affirmed. “I feel that what I have learned throughout my time at Gardner-Webb has really helped and improved the person I have become.” 

Childers also pointed out another advantage of Gardner-Webb’s program was instruction on edTPA—a required performance-based assessment that demonstrate a student’s readiness for the classroom. “The professors start from day one and give us the knowledge and skills we need to achieve this goal of passing edTPA,” observed Childers. “They teach you more and more about the edTPA process in every class.”

Both Childers and Crego were recently notified that they passed the edTPA on their first submission along with 25 of their classmates.

Adriene Crego

Crego described feeling confident as she stepped in front of her first class. “What came to mind was actually everything each professor had said,” Crego asserted. “I carried their wisdom with me in my ‘Teacher Toolbox.’ One of the most memorable pieces of advice given to me was, ‘Do not forget to have fun and enjoy the experience.’”

In addition to the excellent professors and course material, Crego also appreciated the flexibility of Gardner-Webb’s online program. “One major advantage is the ability to plan my education and educational requirements around my busy lifestyle,” she noted. “I am an adult learner with a full-time job as a TA and bus driver, as well as a mom of a child with disabilities. Gardner-Webb made it possible for me to pursue my dream of teaching, as well as maintain my role as an employee and parent.”

One-Stop Registration

The Gardner-Webb College of Education is hosting a One-Stop Registration event on Saturday, May 6, from 9 a.m. to noon at the GWU Charlotte Campus, 8030 Arrowridge Blvd. Candidates will be able to apply free and receive financial aid information. Register here. For more information about the event, email Julie May or call 704-406-3030.

For additional information about applying to the Online Elementary Education Program for Teacher Assistants, email Degree Completion Admissions.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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