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K-State Program Aims To Help The Growing Need For Elementary Teachers

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

It’s getting harder to fill teaching positions in Kansas, especially in rural and urban districts.

In a report released in August, KSDE talked about the challenges the state faces to make sure there is a reliable source of teachers in the future and how to maintain a veteran teaching corps. "Kansas isn’t experiencing a greying of the profession but actually a greening," said the report.

But there’s a new program at Kansas State University to help fill the need.      

It used to be pretty easy to at fill open jobs for elementary teachers in Kansas.

But the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) says even that’s getting harder.

“While we generally don’t think that there’s a shortage of elementary teachers, in point of fact, there is in Kansas and that need is also growing nationwide,” says K-State College of Education Professor Thomas Vontz.

So Kansas State developed a one year, online program so those with an undergraduate degree can get a masters in elementary teaching.

Even though its online, all students will start student teaching in January.

K-State says it developed the program this year because lots of college graduates were looking to change careers.

"The college frequently receives inquiries from college graduates who want to become teachers but there has been no path available to them, other than the bachelor degree in education," College of Education Dean Debbie Mercer said in a statement.

Vontz says many of his student see teaching as a way to give back. “You can make a tremendous difference on a kid. You can establish habits as well as ideas that will last a lifetime.”

In all, Vontz says, the initial class had 49 students, several in other states.

For people willing to spend a year teaching within a 50-mile radius around Dodge City, Garden City, Great Bend, Liberal, Wichita, Topeka or Kansas City there's financial help.

About half of the initial class was eligible for $6,000 fellowships from the Board of Regents, Vontz says.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR. He's also co-host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.