02:51 AM

Reaching (and Teaching) Tomorrow’s Educators

What will it take to get today’s high school students on the other side of the teacher’s desk tomorrow?

Sourcewell is an active participant in regional educator recruitment and has been exploring that very question for years.

While the need for teachers and support staff increases, so have the outreach efforts to not only bring new educators to the area, but to also appeal to high school students considering a career in education to come back following college graduation.

Christine Grams is a school workforce specialist at Sourcewell and is part of a team dedicated to solving the educator shortage throughout central Minnesota. As much as a solution to the problem is needed today, Grams says the impact of the work being done in Region 5 and beyond will most likely be seen and felt down the road.

“From participating in large, statewide efforts like Action Network to Elevate Teaching to positively impact the narrative around the teaching profession in general,” Grams says, “to creating and sustaining pathways into the teaching profession, area districts should begin to feel the impact of the work and the increase of teacher candidates to our region as time goes on and the programs grow.”

A collaboration between St. Cloud State University and Sourcewell is focusing on the front end to attract high school students to the education profession through an Introduction to Education course.

This course, offered each semester to juniors and seniors at schools throughout Sourcewell’s five-county service area, offers interested students their first real deep dive into what it’s like on ‘the other side of the desk,’ and earns them three college credits in the process.

Unique to the model is the online delivery format that brings together students from across the region into one class for synchronous meetings and integrated coursework with intentional classroom observation hours in their home district classrooms.

“Our hope is that many of these students will determine that a career in education is, indeed, the right path for them to follow,” Grams notes. “Once these same students begin their formal post-secondary preparation, deliberate collaborative partnerships with university education professors and clinical experience coordinators will help ensure schools in Region 5 remain front of mind as a place the students want to return to as student teachers and, ultimately, as educators.”

Creativity has been key in incentivizing student teachers to come, or come back, to the area following college. In 2021, the Central Minnesota Student Teacher Program was developed with that intent at heart. Having placed 10 student teachers through this program to date, the first student teacher program placements were made in the spring of 2022 and included three education-major students from SCSU. Of the three students that participated in and completed the program, two remained in the area and were hired as teachers by Region 5 schools.

Rose Johnson was one of those students.

“I fell in love with teaching when I realized I wanted a job where I would be able to interact with people everyday and always be able to continue my education,” Johnson says.

The now first-year social studies teacher at Verndale High School initially heard about Sourcewell’s student teacher program while attending SCSU.

The program helped place me in a school close to where I lived and wanted to be employed after college. As a student teacher, I was placed in a fabulous school that went above and beyond to help me become successful.”

Johnson was placed with veteran Verndale teacher Sam Schmitz, who today serves as Johnson’s teaching partner and classroom neighbor.

“The student teacher opportunity really opened doors to help me find employment in the region and connect me with a fabulous educator to have as a cooperating teacher for student teaching,” Johnson says. “And by participating in the program through Sourcewell, it has continued to provide me with resources like the New Teacher Academy and Catalyst training – both of which have helped me learn strategies for successful teaching and provided me with a good base of knowledge to apply in my classroom.”

Grams says Johnson’s success story is exactly the intent of what her team strives for.

“We want to create positive and supportive experiences for aspiring and new teachers to keep them in the profession.”

If you are interested in hosting and mentoring a student teacher in your classroom, contact education@sourcewell-mn.gov.

To learn more about Sourcewell’s recruitment efforts, visit mn.sourcewell.org/education/teacher-recruitment.