Osagie Ehigie had a simpler living in mind when he left Las Vegas and a career performing in major shows for life on the Grand Strand.
Though seeking purpose, he didn’t expect it to come through sharing his love for dance and performing arts with Horry County students.
“As a performing artist, teaching traditionally isn’t necessarily required; however, for me they have always gone hand-in-hand,” he said. “... The setup for an arts-based classroom is very different than that of an academic one, but the end goal is all the same — inspire students to both question and seek more.”
While continuing his career as a performing artist, Ehigie also serves as a dance education and arts management instructor at Black Water Middle School. Much like his path from the bright lights of Las Vegas to Myrtle Beach, how he ended up in a classroom following a career on stage is equally unique.
“I was a part of the PACE program to gain a teaching certificate in order to keep the job I had obtained (at Black Water Middle School),” he said.
PACE — short for Program of Alternative Certification for Educators — allows those with degrees outside of education and other expertise to acquire teacher certification. It requires a three-year commitment by candidates, who can be evaluated for kindergarten through 12th grade, middle level or secondary school certification.
Candidates must achieve a passing score on the Praxis II subject assessment exam, in addition to clearing an FBI and/or SLED background check.
Sound easy? Ohigie is quick to mention the program is not for everyone.
“The process is quite detailed, and while I would like to give you a flowery anecdote about it being easy and for everyone, it’s not,” he said. “The PACE program is a certification that allows professionals from other career paths to learn, study and earn the equivalent training and knowledge as an education major receiving their bachelors.”
In some cases, candidates enter the classroom without much training at their disposal.
“If they are a summer hire and missed the PACE program in June, you go the first day of school without any contact with students or know-how in regard to managing a classroom,” said St. James computer science teacher Elisha Revis. “It isn’t easy whatsoever, it is no walk in the park. Luckily for me, I had previously worked in an educational setting and knew what it was like.”
Unlike many stories related to PACE, Revis actually wanted to become a teacher. However, her area of expertise did not initially have certification for teachers.
“There is a huge shortage for computer science teachers, and S.C. does not have a college program for educators who want to be in computer science,” she said. “The only method is the PACE program.”
While training for work in schools, candidates are being schooled by longtime educators themselves.
“I was traveling back and forth to Columbia each weekend,” Revis said. “They teach you to develop a lesson plan and objectives, how to make proper assessments. These are professionals — longtime teachers — with field experience and are delivering that to adult learners.”
In addition, candidates must accumulate a certain amount of points through graded homework and portfolios.
“They make it as realistic as possible,” Revis added.
According to Ohigie, he sees the benefits daily.
“The thing that shocked me the most was that I walked into this situation knowing that I’m a very organized person who is good with time management and multitasking, but had no clue how much more organized life could become,” he said. “To a teacher, time is gold. Everyone wants some, and it always seems to be running out.
“But I was shocked to see how I have become more efficient in using this valuable resource.”
More importantly, both find fulfillment in preparing the nation’s next generation of leaders for what lies ahead.
“You’re with the future, and these will be the people that teach my kids,” Revis said. “To see them learn, develop and progress, nowhere else can you see this.
“You will not find any other profession as rewarding as public education.”