By Dr. Remona Jenkins, Director of Teacher Quality & Staff Development, Kershaw County School District

Allyson, a kindergarten instructional assistant, first heard about CarolinaCAP through a district recruitment announcement. She attended the informational session and is currently a CarolinaCAP candidate moving into her second year. She’d worked in Kershaw County School District for a few years and seemed eager to have the opportunity to have her own classroom. Upon completion of the three-year process, she will make history as the first certified teacher in her family. 

CarolinaCAP is a collaboration among South Carolina school districts, the University of South Carolina, and Mira Education with the goal of creating a high-quality alternative pathway into teaching that marries the expertise of local teachers, schools, and districts with nonprofits, data collection partners, and institutions of higher education. 

The CarolinaCAP approach provides individualized support from a coach selected by the district and trained in the program’s model. Candidates experience: 

  • Engaging coursework designed by expert University of South Carolina faculty,
  • Micro-credentials selected by CarolinaCAP candidates with the support of a coach, and
  • Multiple opportunities to learn and grow in virtual learning communities.

As of summer 2023, South Carolina has 31 participating districts in the CarolinaCAP pathway. Alternative certification programs allow candidates to earn their teaching credential while being the teacher of record—and earning a paycheck. However, the requirements for these programs can vary widely.

What sets CarolinaCAP apart from many other programs is the research-based use of an instructional coach.

Education holds a clear affinity for coaching as a method for improving teacher practice and learner outcomes. In fact, support for coaching can be found across research and literature from general education (Shanklin, 2006; Neumann & Wright, 2010; Biancarosa, Bryk, & Dexter, 2010) and special education (Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010; Winton, Snyder, & Goffin, 2015) focused on infants, toddlers, and young children (Snyder, Hemmeter, & Fox, 2015; Israel, Carnahan, Snyder, & Williamson, 2013) as well as learners in the K–12 school setting (Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010; Horner, 2009).

The researchers made a significant discovery regarding professional development (PD). They observed that conventional PD, characterized by sporadic and disconnected training sessions, led to the adoption of fewer than 20 percent of new practices in the classroom. But Joyce and Showers’ research revealed that when training was complemented with continuous coaching, the implementation of new practices surged to an impressive 80 to 90 percent. These research outcomes strongly advocate for the invaluable role of instructional coaches, suggesting that all teachers would benefit from having access to their support.

Coaches possess a precious chance to aid teachers in enhancing their instructional practices.

By fostering continuous job-embedded growth, coaching can tackle the comprehensive aspects of teaching and learning, spotlighting contemporary trends in education and empowering teachers to excel in their profession (Eisenberg et al., 2017). And that’s where instructional coaching is highly effective—especially in servicing alternatively certified candidates through job-embedded skill building.

Allyson’s coach, Melissa, noted how the training she received from CarolinaCAP prepared her for working with candidates and aligned with the research-based training she’d received at the state level as a literacy coach. In reflecting on her support role, she added, “Allyson is an ideal CAP candidate partner! I’ve celebrated her professionally as she rocked her small group instruction and personally as she moved into her new home. We’ve planned together, taught together, and grown together as a team.”

Teachers who have coaches do better. 

CarolinaCAP candidates note having a coach has been instrumental in their process of acclimating to and understanding the many facets of teaching and learning. Our candidates come into the program with numerous abilities, including project management, supervisory skills, non-traditional teaching, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) integration. Our instructional coaches support candidates in honing their skills and building teacher efficacy to ensure students experience a world-class education. One of our CarolinaCAP coaches is the 2023-2024 District Teacher of the Year. Providing alternatively certified candidates with this specialized and intentional professional development in the form of instructional coaching lays out the opportunity for success from someone who knows and understands the framework of teaching.

Instructional coaches have assumed an increasingly significant role in implementing district-level policies as “professional sense makers.” They develop expertise in academic content standards to assist administrators and teachers in translating these standards into effective classroom practices (Domina et al., 2015). For district and school leaders, instructional coaching offers a promising new avenue for professional development. It is content-based and designed to support teachers in aligning with school or district-based instructional reforms. This approach involves embedded and situated work, encompassing classroom observations, demonstration of model practices, and pre- and post-conference sessions with practitioners (Gallucci, Lare, Yoon, & Boatright, 2012).

Given the significance of instructional coaching and its potential to reform educational practices, allocating funding to programs that support coaching is the next step in supporting alternatively certified programs like CarolinaCAP, which marries research, best practices, and embedded coaching to create quality candidates for the classroom. Despite the COVID pandemic, CarolinaCAP increased in district partners and bolstered the pipeline of candidates available to teach in classrooms, proving to be a pathway candidates embrace and one solution to increasing teaching candidates. 

Education allots funding for reading coaches because of the importance of literacy. Instructional coaching has evolved as a role in U.S. public policy to address traditional education and the need to reform our approach to teaching and learning. Funding should be allotted to instructional coaching to address varying needs, including the emergence of alternative certification programming that seeks to prepare teachers for today’s classrooms. Funding through Title I, Title II, and other professional development avenues serves as a catalyst for program expansion and model replication throughout other states seeking effective practices in education.

We can demonstrate the significance of instructional coaching through federal earmarks for alternative certification programming.

Allyson could not have successfully navigated her first year without her coach. She considered other programs, but none offered job-embedded support like CarolinaCAP.

Reflecting during her first year, Allyson noted, “Another amazing thing about this pathway is I went from being an assistant in the classroom to this is my classroom. I am here, I run the room, and these are my students; that is a huge, huge part of why I wanted to do this. I’m at the school where my children are. I don’t know that there could be a greater blessing in this pathway. But it takes a lot of work. It’s not easy. You do have to be dedicated. There will be times when you think, ‘Why did I do this?’ But you can.”

And you will.


Biancarosa, G., Bryk, A. S., & Dexter, E. R. (2010, September). Assessing the value-added effects of literacy collaborative professional development on student learning. Elementary School Journal, 111(1), 7–34.

Domina, T., Lewis, R., Agarwal, P., & Hanselman, P. (2015). Professional sense-makers: Instructional specialists in contemporary schooling. Educational Researcher, 44(6), 359–364.

Gallucci, C., Lare, M. D. V., Yoon, I. H., & Boatright, B. (2010, December 1). Instructional coaching: Building theory about the role and organizational support for professional learning. American Educational Research Journal, 47(4), 919–963.

Israel, M., Carnahan, C. R., Snyder, K. K., & Williamson, P. (2013). Supporting new teachers of students with significant disabilities through virtual coaching: A proposed model. Remedial and Special Education, 34(4), 195–204.  

Kretlow, A. G., & Bartholomew, C. C. (2010). Using coaching to improve the fidelity of evidence-based practices: A review of studies. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 33(4), 279–299. 

Neuman, S. B., & Wright, T. S. (2010). Promoting language and literacy development for early childhood educators: A mixed-methods study of coursework and coaching. Elementary School Journal, 111(1), 63–86. 

Shanklin, N. L. (2006, September 27). What are the characteristics of effective literacy coaching? (ED530356). ERIC.

Snyder, P. A., Hemmeter, M. L., & Fox, L. (2015, August 5). Supporting implementation of evidence-based practices through practice-based coaching. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 35(3), 133–143.

Winton, P., Snyder, P., & Goffin, S. (2015). Rethinking professional development for early childhood teachers. In L. Couse & S. Recchia (Eds.), Handbook of Early Childhood Teacher Education (pp. 54–68). Routledge.

Dr. Remona Jenkins is the Director of Teacher Quality & Staff Development in Kershaw County School District. She oversees Teacher Induction, South Carolina Mentors, Frontline Professional Growth, and CarolinaCAP and supports district recruitment efforts. Dr. Jenkins has written and published for the Center for Educational Partnerships at USC, developed leadership micro-credentials, served as a Career Development Trainer for the state of South Carolina, and taught as Adjunct Faculty for Axia College with the University of Phoenix. She is a Society of Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and an active member and presenter for The American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA). Her work in alternative certification has been featured in USC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion eNews.

This story is published as part of a recent storytelling retreat hosted by CarolinaCrED, housed in the University of South Carolina’s College of Education. Mira Education, a CarolinaCrED partner, facilitated the retreat and provided editorial and publication support. Learn more about this work and read additional stories by following @CarolinaCrED and @miraeducation.