ABERDEEN, S.D.— Northern State University is delighted to announce the expansion of South Dakota's successful Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway, made possible by additional funding from the state legislature. This growth will allow more aspiring educators to pursue their dreams of teaching.

Through the Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway, participants earn a bachelor's degree in elementary, secondary, or special education while continuing to work as a paraprofessional in their school. NSU and Dakota State University offer the necessary coursework over a two-year period, culminating in a student-teaching experience and resulting in the completion of a bachelor's degree in secondary, elementary, or special education. All coursework is offered virtually at convenient times, so participants can continue to work while enrolled. School districts provide a local mentor to support the apprentices throughout the process.

"Investing in South Dakota's educator workforce is vital to our state and our students," said South Dakota Board of Regents Executive Director Nathan Lukkes. "By offering opportunities to dedicated paraprofessionals, two of our state's public universities, NSU and DSU, hope to turn the current teacher shortage into a well-established educator pipeline. We encourage school districts to support participation in the apprenticeship program and provide authentic on-the-job training within their community."

The Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway has already made a significant impact on the lives of its participants, offering them the opportunity to pursue their passion for teaching while continuing to work in their local schools. Ivy Freese, a student teacher from Spearfish, South Dakota, said, "The Apprenticeship program is an amazing opportunity. Being a part of this has truly been life changing. Everyone involved with this program has been incredibly supportive and helpful at all times. Through this program, I have been able to work not only toward my certification, but also toward my degree. Not only that, but I have been able to accept a position as a 7th grade ELA teacher for the upcoming school year. I am truly grateful for this program and all it has allowed me to achieve throughout my journey from paraprofessional to teacher. The people who made this possible have made an incredible impact on me and shown me what the world of education can do for fellow lifelong learners."

A collaborative effort between NSU, DSU, the South Dakota Board of Regents, the Department of Labor and Regulation, the Department of Education and local school districts, the Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway provides paraprofessionals a clear route to becoming fully certified teachers. This program addresses the ongoing teacher shortage and strengthens South Dakota's educator workforce by offering a structured path for paraprofessionals to gain the necessary education and experience to become licensed educators. By working together, these institutions and organizations are taking proactive steps to ensure a stable and well-prepared teaching force for the future of South Dakota's students.

"To realize the work that you've done has meaning is incredibly motivating," said Dr. Anna Schwan, dean of the Millicent Atkins School of Education at Northern State University. "For over a year, NSU, DSU, the South Dakota Department of Education and the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation have joined forces to pioneer a registered teacher apprentice pathway, and this initiative clearly holds significant promise for schools, paraprofessionals and above all, our students. The news that there will be funding for a second cohort signifies the commitment to education we all share and of which we are immensely proud."

“The Department of Labor and Regulation is committed to keeping costs low for students as they gain on-the-job experience,” said state Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman. “This program exemplifies the benefits of an apprenticeship by allowing individuals to earn and learn while staying in their home community.”

Applications for the upcoming cohort, starting in July, are now open. Interested individuals must submit a letter of recommendation from their school district administrator. Visit the Department of Education's Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway webpage for more information at https://doe.sd.gov/oatq/TAP.aspx.