Addressing a teacher shortage

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 4:47 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota is struggling not only to find teachers, but to keep them as well. Supporters say the bill will add necessary support and confidence to teachers to keep them in North Dakota schools.

The bill was overwhelming supported by the committee which has already seen its success over the past few years. And now they’re looking to keep the bill and the program moving forward.

North Dakota was in a teacher shortage before COVID. But the pandemic worsened its effects. And supporters of the bill say schools have been in survival mode.

Starting a new job can be tough.

Starting a new job in a pandemic might require a helping hand.

“We have a lot of new and green teachers, and honestly new and green administrators too, that have had quite the introduction into the profession this year. In more ways than I can indicate, this is not a typical year,” North Dakota of Educational Leaders Executive Director Aimee Copas said.

To help train and retain, the state funded a teacher mentorship pilot program, where first-year teachers were paired with a veteran educator to help transition into their new careers.

Mentors are given stipends of up to $900 per semester. Funding has also been used to find and pay substitute teachers who participate as well.

All of this to help young professionals in an ever-changing career.

“We have several schools we know that are hiring teachers one year, and then they change a grade or change a topic and/or they do it virtually, so they get no classroom experience,” Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, said.

This bill not only expands the duration of the program, but also expands who qualifies. If the bill passes, any leftover funds will allow second-year teachers to participate again.

The pilot program started in 2015, and since then has seen a difference in retention between those who do and don’t participate. In 2018, 94% of first-year teachers who had a mentor came back the second year. Those without a mentor saw 84% retention.

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