Scholarships at Minot State University hope to alleviate special education teacher shortage in ND

Published: May. 3, 2022 at 10:21 PM CDT
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MINOT, N.D. (KFYR) - There is a shortage of special education teachers in North Dakota. Now, to help fill the gap, Minot State University is giving free tuition to twenty students who are looking to expand their work in the special education field.

“I wanted to make a difference as a teacher, I just didn’t know how to do that,” said Mariah Jahner.

That’s why Jahner decided to apply for a scholarship from Minot State University to become a special education teacher.

The state of North Dakota has given the university’s Department of Special Education a $750,000 grant for full scholarships given to students already working in the special education field, oftentimes as an aid, but have not yet obtained their degree to become a teacher.

The goal behind the grant is to encourage more people to become special education teachers. Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the state officially declared a teacher shortage in the state and the trend has continued or even worsened in some areas.

“I think the COVID pandemic sort of exacerbated that or accelerated that, but in specialty fields, including special education to support children with disabilities, is experiencing a more acute shortage than other areas,” said Holly Pedersen, special education teacher.

The scholarship opportunity is what encouraged Marisa McConvill to go back to school at Minot University to become a special education teacher.

“I was a stay-at-home mom, so this was a great opportunity for me to get back in the classroom with kids I knew,” said McConvill.

And for Lindsey Schroeder, who wanted to become a teacher 20 years ago, but never had a chance to finish her education, this is a life-changing new start.

“Without the grant, I would never have been able to go back to school, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” said Schroeder.

And while being a special education teacher is a difficult job, Jahner says it is worth it.

“I love the students and it is difficult some days but so rewarding,” said Jahner.

This is not the first special education grant Minot State University has received. Last time, demand was so high for the scholarships, that there were almost 100 applications for nine spots.

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