JACKSON - Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour recently celebrated the launch of a new alternative teacher certification program in Mississippi by encouraging talented professionals to consider changing careers and teaching in the state.

"In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi faces years of recovery and rebuilding," Barbour said. "To ensure that we accomplish our goals, Mississippi communities are working together to improve our schools so that every child in Mississippi has an opportunity to succeed. First and foremost, we must recruit the very best teachers for our students."

Mississippi faces a teacher shortage, with a critical need of 3,000 new teachers every year.

The new program is Passport to Teaching, offered by the non-profit American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (www.teachms.org). Passport to Teaching is an affordable and flexible program that requires candidates for certification to hold a bachelor's degree, demonstrate mastery on rigorous subject matter and professional teaching knowledge examinations and pass a federal background check. The Mississippi Board of Education approved the program in June as a route to earning the one-year alternate route license.

ABCTE launched the program with informational sessions in Jackson and Greenville on Monday. More than 100 Mississippians have attended the sessions this week. In the last three days, nearly 400 people have requested information about the program.

In a statement, Barbour encouraged career changers to consider enrolling in the program: "We challenge you to take part in our statewide plan to improve education by changing careers and becoming a teacher. If you have the knowledge and motivation, you can make a difference in the lives of children in your community," he said.

For more information about Passport to Teaching in Mississippi, visit www.teachms.org or call 1-877-669-2228.