RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Central North Carolina Schools have hundreds of teacher vacancies. NC State College of Education Dean Paola Stzajn said the college is helping districts fill those vacancies.

“Teacher preparation programs are working really hard across our state to put highly qualified teachers in the classroom who want to remain in the profession,” Sztajn said.

School districts can hire people with degrees in other areas to come teach as long as they complete their teacher licensure in a certain period. Sztajn said demand for this is growing.

A few years ago, the college started an alternative licensure program called Pathway to Practice. The program helps people stay in the classroom and become licensed at the same time.

It has 260 enrollees working in school districts across the state. The top two districts are Wake County Schools with 42 participants and Harnett County Schools with 24 participants. Durham County Schools has 12 participants and Cumberland County Schools has 5 participants.

“We did see an uptick in numbers this year because of the situation of so many classes needing an emergency teacher,” Sztajn said.

Sztajn said demand is so great the college is starting a second program, a Masters of Art in Teaching, working with districts to enroll people by the end of the month.

“It just came up because there was such a request last week, so it’s yet to be seen how many new students will come in that way,” she said.

As for new undergraduate students, Sztajn said the college exceeded its target enrollment for this year’s freshman class, welcoming 140 future teachers.

Last year, the college graduated 154 undergrads with initial N.C. teaching licenses, the most in seven years.

Freshman Elementary Education major Eliana Harr began her journey to becoming a teacher on Monday with the first day of class at NC State.

“Teaching is a very big passion of mine, a lot of teachers in my life have really impacted me and I feel like I want to have the same impact on children and future generations,” Harr said.

Sztajn said 75 percent of graduates end up teaching at North Carolina public schools.