Teaching program to benefit N’West Iowa | News

REGIONAL — Every public school district in N’West Iowa is set to benefit from a newly launched program designed to get more teachers and paraeducators hired amid a nationwide shortage of education professionals.

The 13 districts, along with the Emmetsburg School District, were awarded $ 6,282,470 through the Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship (TPRA) pilot program.

Gov. Kim Reynolds launched the program earlier this year and announced on June 9 that $ 45.6 million was awarded through the initiative statewide. The money comes from the state’s allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The implementation of the program will start in the 2022-23 academic year and go through the 2023-24 academic year. After that, the state will evaluate that program and consider whether to keep funding it.

The MOC-Floyd Valley School District is the designated fiscal agent for the N’West Iowa schools benefiting from the program; collectively, the districts in the region applied for the funds as the Northwest Iowa TPRA Consortium.

“This will help us address the teaching shortage,” said MOC-Floyd Valley superintendent Russ Adams. “At least, it’s one avenue to do that. It’s not going to be a panacea, but it’ll help I hope. “

The program will give existing high school students the opportunity to earn a paraeducator certificate and an associate degree before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education. It likewise will help existing paraeducators with associate degrees earn a bachelor’s degree as they continue working in the classroom.

Money from the pilot program will help pay students’ college tuition as well as the salary they earn while working in schools.

Colleges that are partnering with the Northwest Iowa TPRA Consortium to provide education coursework are Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, Iowa State University in Ames, Northwestern College in Orange City and Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon.



Teacher Sue Rozeboom assists first-grader Emma Plueger with an afternoon assignment at Rock Valley Elementary. Rozeboom retired this spring after working at the school for 28 years.



While the consortium was applying for the pilot program with assistance from NCC, the community college brought on retired dean for the Center of Teaching and Learning Gretchen Bartelson to help with the grant writing process.

Bartelson said she “pretty much jumped out of my seat,” when she learned the grant application was accepted.

“I am really excited about the grant,” she said. “In the beginning, I wondered, ‘Why?’ But there is going to be a real drop-off of people going into education in the next few years. We’re going to be struggling in America for teachers. ”

Bartelson noted the coronavirus pandemic hit two professions particularly hard when it came to employment and retention: teachers and nurses. According to a survey from the National Education Association, about 55 percent of educators have indicated they are ready to leave the profession earlier than they intended.

“It changed so many feelings and attitudes,” Bartelson said.

Adams said MOC-Floyd Valley is fortunate to have filled all its open teaching positions ahead of the 2022-23 academic year but that the district still has open paraeducator positions. However, he recalled a recent conversation he had with a superintendent at a smaller district who was trying to fill five teaching vacancies.

“I said, ‘Oh, how many applicants do you have?’ and he said, ‘None,’ “Adams said.

Sheldon School District Superintendent Cory Myer spoke about the widespread teacher shortage while discussing the TPRA program at Wednesday’s board of education meeting.

“The teacher shortage is a very, very real concern. We talk about it a lot with our administrative team. We talk about it across the state all the time, ”Myer said. “It is everywhere, and it is worse than it’s ever been before.”

He said most full-time teaching positions in the Sheldon schools have been filled, although the middle school still needs a special education teacher. The district – like several other N’West Iowa districts – also is searching for more paraeducators.



MOC-FV math curriculum, Bundt

Math teacher Joel Bundt walks junior Emily Theis through a pre-calculus problem at MOC-Floyd Valley High School in Orange City. Teaching staff are in high demand in N’West Iowa, which is a problem the newly launched Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship pilot program aims to alleviate.



The Sheldon schools recorded 14 resignations from paraeducators and hired 15 in that same span, according to board meeting minutes July 2021-June 2022. Most hirings for paraeducators took place toward the start of the academic year while most of the resignations occurred in the spring.

In that same academic year, MOC-Floyd Valley saw 10 paraeducators resign and seven hired. Similar teaching deficiencies were present in the Boyden-Hull School District, which had eight teachers resign and only two hired as well as the Central Lyon School District with four teaching resignations and one full-time hiring. Central Lyon also saw four paraeducators resign and two hired.

The George-Little Rock School District had 10 teachers resign and nine hired as well as seven paraeducators leave and six hired. The South O’Brien School District broke even with eight teacher resignations and eight teacher hires during the 2021-22 academic year.

There is already interest among some high school students and existing paraeducators in the region to take part in the apprenticeship pilot program.

Adams, for instance, said about five paraeducators in MOC-Floyd Valley have expressed interest in it. Myer said a few students in Sheldon likewise are curious to participate as were about five paraeducators. Two Sheldon graduates looking to go into education also plan to take part in the program. They would work as paraeducators while taking classes at NCC.

“They’ll work as paras for us, do their coursework at NCC and we’ll pay $ 7,000 a year toward their tuition,” Myer said. “It already has a positive impact on our ability to get paraprofessionals.”

Bartelson also spoke favorably about how the pilot program focuses on getting participants teaching degrees in addition to providing real-world experience.

“This is one of the more sensible apprenticeship programs, and it works well with the existing educational structures at the colleges and the K-12,” Bartelson said.

“Where sometimes an apprenticeship program is a great idea, but it’s forced on the schools in a way that doesn’t work well and doesn’t make sense to the schools involved in it, this one does. This one makes real sense. ”

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