Education leaders push to recruit more teachers in Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Education leaders in Missouri are asking for more money to recruit teachers and get them to return to the classrooms they once learned in.

“There’s nothing like watching a light bulb come on when a student is growing and learning,” said Traci Mitchell, the Director of Learning for the Cassville School District.

Mitchell knows the value of an educator. That’s why the Cassville School District prides itself on having many graduates return to teach after college.

“They love their community, they love their school. It’s where they grew up. There’s family there,” she said.

Mitchell said a large percentage of the district’s staff are alumni. She said it can be difficult to attract teachers from out of the area.

“We can grow our own, we can show them the impact they can make, the difference they truly can make in a child’s life,” Mitchell said.

The inspiration starts through Cassville’s Train to Teach program, where high school students serve as aides for elementary educators.

“You know, they don’t do grading or those kinds of things, but we make sure they’re not just running copies. They’re there to see what it’s like to be a teacher,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the district also has scholarships specifically for students pursuing degrees in education.

She said this spring, Cassville will award the first scholarships from the $1 million trust established by James Doyle Riddle for students who commit to teaching in Missouri schools.

Only about 20{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of the school districts across Missouri have programs like in Cassville, according to Dr. Paul Katnik, the Assistant Commissioner of Educator Quality for the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Students today can become great teachers tomorrow and keep the community going. That’s what the whole concept’s about,” Katnik said.

Katnik said the state needs to be more intentional about recruiting and retaining its teachers. The department is asking the state legislature for $200,000 in its next budget to expand “Grow Your Own” programs across Missouri with grants for 20 schools.

“There’s no doubt that our future teachers are sitting in our high schools.” Katnik said.

He said just attracting someone to the field of education is a struggle. One reason, he said, is low teacher salary. Katnik said, last year, Missouri started the conversation about improving the base pay for teachers and offering more raises. Since then, that topic has taken a backseat, he said, but Missouri needs to reconsider it in order to fill teacher openings.

Katnik said only about a third of teachers in Missouri stay in their field for six years.

“They move to other areas of work that might be a little easier and pay a little better,” he said.

Katnik said a teacher who graduated from their district is more likely to invest for the long term.

“Because they were a student there once and know what kinds of things those students need and can deliver that,” he said.

Mitchell said it’s important to invest in the future of education.

“We need more teachers, we need more people that believe they can make a difference,” she said.

Gov. Mike Parson could release his proposed draft budget in January. Lawmakers will work on finalizing the state’s budget over the next several months.

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