UND works to address teacher shortages across the state

In the midst of a teacher shortage, it is more difficult for school systems to recruit...
In the midst of a teacher shortage, it is more difficult for school systems to recruit qualified educators.(WSFA 12 News)
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 2:46 PM CDT
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Several months after announcing the launch of a new Office of Teacher Recruitment and Retention (OTRR) to address teacher shortages throughout the state, UND’s College of Education & Human Development has turned that idea into a reality.

Key personnel for the new Office of Teacher Recruitment and Retention include Director Ashley Smalley, a former West Fargo middle school teacher who is nearing completion of a doctorate in educational leadership from UND, as well as new Outreach Specialist Monte Gaukler, a former Grand Forks teacher and UND adjunct professor.

“Our teachers are being asked to play more roles than ever, while they face unprecedented challenges from school districts, communities and state and federal governments,” said Smalley. “They feel unsupported, unappreciated and mentally and physically overwhelmed. Solving the problem of keeping educators in the profession, and inspiring future educators, will require systemic changes and reforms.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, teacher shortages in North Dakota span many areas, including early childhood and elementary education, math, social studies and health and physical fitness. Declining enrollment in teacher education programs and the COVID-19 pandemic have both contributed to the current crisis.

Smalley says she wants to see that trend reversed. Per its stated goals, OTRR wishes to:

• Slow or reverse the downward enrollment trend in teacher education programs

• Provide support to current teachers and actively address underlying causes of teacher stress and dissatisfaction before they leave the profession

• Establish more resources for children across the state through rural summer camps in reading and STEM

• Introduce new opportunities for training to recruit new students interested in educational careers