Good teachers are in high demand and short supply, and a new program that seeks to address that conundrum is a reason to celebrate.
The Webb City-based Southwest Center for Educational Excellence has received a $3.7 million, five-year federal grant to pay to send at least 70 paraprofessionals through an online teacher education program through Western Governors University to obtain their teaching certificates and bachelor’s degrees over the next five years.
The Missouri Achievement for a Collaborative Teacher residency program “creates a nontraditional pathway that allows paraprofessionals, meeting grant qualifications and currently working in our districts, to remain working while attaining their teacher certification,” Melissa Massey, the Southwest Center’s executive director, told the Globe earlier this week.
Officials hope it will help districts attract and retain teachers, and it’s good to see a local institution taking those issues seriously. Teacher shortages are not new in public education, but there’s evidence that they may be worsening in recent years.
A 2016 report from the Learning Policy Institute, building on the most comprehensive research conducted on teacher shortages at that time, estimated that 300,000 new teachers would be needed annually by 2020, and 316,000 new teachers needed annually by 2025, unless “major changes” occurred to affect either the supply or the demand.
Will the Southwest Center’s program make a “major change”? It promises to, at least at the local level. We applaud this program for seeking to fill our children’s classrooms with quality teachers, thereby improving their educational outcomes.
But let’s remember who else will benefit from this — the instructors who seek to better their lives and their careers by getting their teaching certificates or four-year degrees.
Carthage resident Savanna Jones put her education on hold to care for her three children. She has worked for the past few years as a substitute teacher and instructional aide in Carthage, but this program will help her realize a lifelong desire.
“This means the world for me,” she told the Globe earlier this week. “I will become a teacher, and that has been one of the things I’ve looked forward to my whole life.”
Congratulations to Jones and her peers in the program for reaching toward that goal. It’s your time to achieve your dreams, and your community thanks you for your dedication to teaching our kids.