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Teacher Pathway & Educators Rising: "Grow Your Own" Initiatives | Teacher Talk

Last week, I presented at the state conference for Educators Rising South Dakota, held at Northern State University. Along with other University of South Dakota School of Education faculty members and the School of Education Recruiter, I made the trek to Aberdeen, SD to talk with aspiring educators who are currently in middle or high school. Nearly 300 students attended the state conference, which included break-out sessions from education professionals, a keynote address, student competitions, and a vendor area where students could connect to area colleges and universities as well as other educational organizations.

Educators Rising is a national organization that aims to “maximize recruitment, increase diversity, and raise the bar for quality preparation” into the profession of teaching. Schools across South Dakota have their own EdRising Chapters with a teacher leader in their school. Most chapters function like a school club for students who are interested in becoming teachers. EdRising SD students have the opportunity to attend learning expos at South Dakota universities throughout the year (mark your calendars for Sep 26, 2024 at the University of South Dakota!), attend the state conference, or even the national conference.

Programs such as Educators Rising are part of a national trend of “Grow Your Own” (GYO) teacher programs. In the aptly named Education Weekly article “What Does It Mean to ‘Grow Your Own’ Teachers? It Depends,” the definition for GYO programs varies greatly, but all share the vision of recruiting local students to become teachers who stay to teach in their home state. Within the middle and high school initiatives, programs typically include a club or extracurricular activity and/or a teaching course, often with a dual-credit opportunity with a partner university.

While Educators Rising serves as an extracurricular GYO initiative, the Teacher Pathway program offers high school education courses where students can also receive college credit at USD. The Teacher Pathway program is a successful and sustainable initiative designed to address the shortage of qualified teachers by recruiting and training candidates from underrepresented populations into the teaching profession. The program was launched in 2017 by the Sioux Falls School District in partnership with the University of South Dakota's School of Education, with an initial cohort of 108 students. Since then, over 575 Sioux Falls students have gone through the program. The Harrisburg School District, Yankton School District, and rural areas in collaboration with the CORE Educational Cooperative also now have their own Teacher Pathway programs in partnership with the University of South Dakota.

In February, SFSD Teacher Pathway students had the opportunity to visit the University of Sioux Falls, Augustana University, or the University of South Dakota - Sioux Falls to learn about teacher preparation programs. They also heard from human resources at the Sioux Falls School District about future career opportunities. This semester, a donor paid for all Teacher Pathway students’ college tuition for the $40 per credit education course at USD. The Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation announced this generous gift to the Teacher Pathway students at the event.

On SDPB’s episode of South Dakota Focus: Solving the Teacher Shortage, Jackie Hendry (USD alumna ‘15, ‘22) reported on the efforts of Educators Rising and Teacher Pathway as solutions to the current teacher shortage in South Dakota. Gina Benz was featured in the episode as a founder and teacher in the Sioux Falls School District Teacher Pathway program.

Correction: The radio segment and blog post erroneously used the term "club" in reference to Educators Rising South Dakota. Educators Rising is a Career Technical Student Organization, which can be co-curricular.

Jacqueline Wilber, Ed.D. is an experienced educator from South Dakota. She is currently a faculty member at the University of South Dakota and Director of the Center for Student and Professional Services in the School of Education.

She began her career in public schools in 2007 and has served as a teacher, librarian, and administrator. Jackie holds a Nebraska Teaching Certificate for 7-12 grade English/Language Arts, a Nebraska Public Library Certificate, and an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 500) credential through Yoga Alliance. She was a 2014 Sioux Falls School District Teacher of the Year Finalist.