MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — Administrators, teachers and staff in the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy marked the beginning of another school year the same way they've done in the past.

Students were greeted at the front door of their school with hugs, high-fives, cheers and fist bumps.

"It's Tiger tradition," said Muskegon Heights Superintendent Rané Garcia. "The whole community comes out to welcome the kids back."

Joining the group in celebration this year are 15 new staff members who will fill the role of teachers. Each has held other roles in the district in previous years. Some as long-term substitute teachers, others in education support roles. 

The 15 teachers are now full-time employees taking part in the district's Supporting Emerging Educator Development, or SEED, program recently approved by the Michigan Department of Education.

The 15 individuals selected to participate all have four-year bachelor's degrees, some also have master's degrees. All, however, lack the state certification to teach.  

Garcia says SEED is one effort district leaders are working to retain and attract new teachers to the urban district.

For two years, SEED teachers are the primary instructors in their classrooms. While at the same time they'll be taking classes online and in the evenings through Grand Valley State University.

GVSU provides Muskegon Heights SEED teachers with teaching mentors.

The Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is covering the cost of the program. During the two years SEED teachers are working towards their state certification to teach, they're paid the same as first-year teacher and are offered the same benefits. 

After obtaining state certification, the 15 SEED teachers agree to teach in Muskegon Heights for three additional years.

"And that's really a key component to this program," said Garcia. "To build stability in our district."

SEED teacher Angela Locke says that will be an easy commitment to keep.

"You want to give it back and show people you are about your community and here for the kids," Locke said.

And SEED teacher Barbra Jackson she'll likely stay on with Muskegon Heights even longer. "These are my kids, I'm not going anywhere," Jackson said.

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