The state of Minnesota is in a teacher crisis. The worst of the crisis impacts our area, also defined as Economic Development Region 8 (EDR 8). According to the Minnesota 2019 Supply and Demand report, enrollment in K-12 has increased 3.9% from academic year 2016 to 2017. At the same time, licensed teachers working in the field have decreased, making it extremely difficult to find qualified teachers for the school districts.
Another factor is that more than half of the licensed teachers in the state are not currently working in a teaching-related field. Due to the teacher shortage, school districts have hired 3200 teachers who are working under special permissions or out of compliance, according to the report. Moreover, in EDR 8, the students of color has gone up by 2.2% while less than 4% of the teachers in Minnesota are from underrepresented groups.
Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) recently hosted a forum to discuss and find solutions to teacher shortage. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz was the keynote speaker. In his speech, Governor Walz indicated the need to put resources to teacher education programs to alleviate the teacher shortage. SMSU has already implemented several initiatives to combat the teacher shortage.
First, SMSU is offering several fully online Education programs. The online degree programs are ideal for adult learners and potential students who are place bound, allowing them to earn an education degree and teaching licensure in the state of Minnesota. The fully online programs SMSU is offering in Education include: Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Special Education, Elementary Education, Special Education, and Teaching English as a Second Language.
Second, we have established the Winston G. Gittens Diversity in Education scholarship. This faculty-initiated scholarship is available to incoming students who are from diverse backgrounds seeking a degree to become licensed teachers in Minnesota.
Additionally, SMSU was awarded a grant by the Minnesota Department of Education to collaborate with school districts to support Educators’ Rising clubs (to promote interest in the field of education). The grant will support College Now (Dual Credit) courses as well as an Aspiring Educators Academy in the summer for potential teacher candidates.
To build an inclusive education career pathway for high school students and other interested individuals in the greater Worthington area, thereby increase the overall number of teachers, and specifically diverse teachers, SMSU partnered with Worthington
School District and Minnesota West in a unique partnership. In this collaborative program, Worthington High School students who are interested in an Education career will take courses while they in High School from Minnesota West and then move on to attend Minnesota West. After two years, they will complete the rest of their education degree from SMSU. All the courses that are required to finish a bachelor’s degree in education will be offered by SMSU in Worthington.
SMSU has created several new scholarship programs for students. The President’s Regional Scholars Award was created to help keep the best and brightest students in the region, and we hope that they will stay for their careers as well. We also launched Mustang Promise, our pledge to students that they will find employment after graduation. An astounding 99% of our recent graduates have found work, or are enrolled in graduate school. We are confident in the quality, relevance and value of the degrees we offer at SMSU. We are investing in our students and our communities to ensure a viable future for us all. Preparing teachers is our investment in the future.
“Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.”– Author Unknown
SMSU is committed to help solve the teacher shortage problem. Anyone who is interested in these programs should contact the admission office at SMSU.