Master’s degree partnership to aid in Northeast Wisconsin teacher shortage | WLUK

GREEN BAY (WLUK) — Local education departments are making new efforts to fill Wisconsin’s severe teacher shortage; an advanced Master’s degree program is bridging the gap.

“You can start your career in one spot, and you can continue to grow as a professional into other spots, including classroom teacher,” said Mike Friis, the Green Bay school district’s executive director of human resources.

The district and the UW-Green Bay have partnered to launch a new innovative program to help enable the district’s hourly paraprofessional employees to become teachers.

Fifteen staff members who have bachelor’s degrees were admitted to a master of science applied leadership in teaching and learning degree program to get their elementary teacher certification.

“Delivering that training on-site versus having just the requirement to have future teachers come to the university,” said Tim Kaufman, chair of education at UW-Green Bay.

Program organizers say the effort will provide support to fill teacher openings, reduce class sizes and spread equity in education.

Friis teaches the class with Kaufman. He says this program is one of a kind.

“Ahead of the game in terms of having that real-world knowledge, skill, disposition and experience in our schools that I feel like they’re really able to apply what they’re learning, and they can see where it’s going to take place when they have their own classroom someday,” added Friis.

Program costs, including student tuition and books, are funded by a Fast Forward grant from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

The program has already been to eight or nine schools in the district. UW-Green Bay provides the instructors, while the district provides the classrooms.

The director of the Licensing, Educator Advancement and Development team at the state’s Department of Public Instruction, Jennifer Kammerud, says the data has not changed in regard to shortages over the past two years.

“I think the challenge, looking ahead, is how do we continue to keep a large number of people interested in coming into the profession and how do we retain the people that we have?” said Kammerud.

This new local partnership works to help Wisconsin’s workforce needs, removing financial barriers and advancing employees already within the system.

Betsy Luczaj, a student in the program, has a background in biology and geology.

She says she looks forward to teaching middle school science or math.

“It’s this really wonderful opportunity for me to go back to school and get my teaching license and a Master’s degree,” said Luczaj. “Before I was aware of this program, I wasn’t even thinking about it, and when we had the opportunity, it was really like a door opening — that I could get my Master’s degree and actually teach.”

Having classes in the district’s schools allows the program’s students to see what they would like their classrooms and teaching style to be like.

“We are always proud of our graduates and the sort of innovation and flexibility that they bring,” added Kaufman.

Program organizers say the goal is to meet the needs of the local school district, the students and the community.

The class meets on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The university says the new program increases students’ annual salary, on average, by about $20,000.

Source: Master’s degree partnership to aid in Northeast Wisconsin teacher shortage | WLUK

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