ABERDEEN, S.D. – Northern State University is helping South Dakota solve the teacher shortage by creating a flexible, low-cost pathway for educational assistants (para-educators) who are working in schools to become teachers.
The South Dakota Department of Education opened applications for the Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway to thousands of para-educators working in accredited school districts across the state. The program will help para-educators pursue certification to become licensed teachers.
The Northern State University Millicent Atkins School of Education and Dakota State University are offering the courses and programs in the Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway. Para-educators will continue working and will student-teach in their home district. Northern and Dakota State faculty will offer the coursework virtually and at convenient times so para-educators can work and earn their degree at the same time.
During the 2022-23 school year, about 175 teacher vacancies went unfilled in South Dakota. Northern State University Millicent Atkins School of Education and Dakota State University are working with superintendents, the DOE, the South Dakota Department of Labor and the South Dakota Board of Regents to address the teacher shortage. The Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway program has room for 60 participants.
“That won’t entirely solve the shortages school districts are experiencing now, but if we can knock that number down by a third, that is definitely significant,” said Joseph Graves, Secretary of Education. “It will also be life-changing for some of our para-educators. These are people who have already proven themselves to be fine educators. This program will give them the extra knowledge and expertise they need to be successful in a classroom of their own.”
The program has been made possible by a unique partnership of schools and agencies. Northern and DSU, through the support of the Board of Regents, will be offering the coursework; the Department of Education is providing oversight and funding; and the Department of Labor is contributing funding to keep any costs to the apprentice teachers low.
“It’s time to start considering solutions to the teacher shortage in a unique way, and Northern State University is thrilled to be in partnership with the DOE and the DLR in developing the S.D. Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway,” said Dr. Anna Schwan, Interim Dean of the Millicent Atkins School of Education. “This program has the power to be truly impactful for schools, para-educators, and most importantly, our students. We are all in this together, and this important work aimed at ‘growing our own’ teachers in South Dakota represents true collaboration, innovation and thought; Northern is part of the solution, and that’s an inspiring feeling.”
Offering the program at a very low cost to the participants is an essential aspect of the program because many simply don’t have the resources to meet tuition and related expenses.
“Our Start Today SD apprenticeship program offers financial services to help offset costs to support registered apprentices,” said state Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman. “This is a great opportunity for South Dakotans to gain valuable on-the-job training and advance in their careers while continuing to earn an income and provide for their families.”
About Northern State University
Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $150 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.