By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

A new partnership with Chico State University makes it possible for students here to get a college degree and become a certified teacher without ever leaving Del Norte County.

Starting this fall, an online program begins allowing Del Norte students to get a Chico State Bachelor of Arts degree while they live and work here.

It crosses over graphic distance and time distance. So you dont have to show up for a class at 10 oclock in the morning, you can do it at night or on weekends on your own schedule, said CSU professor Bill Martin, who is overseeing the distance learning program.

So far, the opportunity is limited to students who want to become elementary school teachers, or at least get started in the professional education field.

California is desperate need of teachers for several reasons, said Martin.

The state Legislature has even formed a task force called CalTeach to encourage students toward the teaching career.

California needs about 250,000 new teachers right now, according to CalTeach.

One reason for the shortage is the unprecedented numbers of veteran teachers who are retiring. Also, student enrollment is predicted to rise significantly and policy makers are reducing class sizes.

All of these factors will create an acute shortage of teachers by the year 2006, according to the California State University Web site.

The liberal studies degree offered this fall is geared to prepare students for certification as an elementary school teacher.

Karen Brohmer, grants coordinator for the Del Norte County Unified School District, worked with Chico State and College of the Redwoods officials to get the program going.

The project reaches out to local high school students and offers financial aid.

Del Nortes school board members embraced the idea of the online program for two major reasons.

First, the program allows Del Norte County to produce its own teachers and second, it saves students from what some consider a dangerous two-hour commute to Humboldt State University in Arcata for three years of course work.

The programs Web site at shows how to qualify for and participate in the program.

Generally they would do two years work at College of the Redwoods and two years work online, then they would work toward their credentials, said Martin describing whats involved.

He said during the credential course, students can do their in-class teacher training in the local elementary schools.

Though some are leery of the online education experience, Martin said theres actually more interaction between students and professors than in the traditional setting.

Usually theres just a few outspoken students in each class and not everyone gets contact with the professor, but with online courses theres e-mail contact with each student, Martin said.

To register for the program, visit the Web site or call 530-898-5802 or contact Karen Brohmer locally at 464-0712.