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The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education gave a $40,000 grant to the Northwest School of Education. The University announced that it will use the grant to launch the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Program.

The teacher recruitment and retention program is aimed at providing eight undergraduate students from Missouri who are majoring in an education-related field with helping local school districts and mentorship for the 2022-23 academic school year. The students selected have accumulated up to 60 credit hours.

Some of the selected students include Miles Jaques, a junior instrumental music major, Wilmer Ramos, a sophomore elementary education major, Michail Todd, a sophomore social studies and history education major, and Adrian Keller, a sophomore middle school education major. Keller, who grew up on a farm outside of Slater, Missouri, was surprised when she got an email in April informing her about the scholarship.

Northwest also collaborated with the Maryville R-II school district and the Savannah R-III school district in hopes to recruit and retain future educators via new approaches aimed at potential teacher candidates which have been historically underrepresented. 

“I was super surprised. I don’t come from a rich background, and anything helps,” Keller said. “So the first thing I did when I heard that news, I called my mom, like ‘Mom, we have money.’”

Keller said she wishes to be a middle school social studies teacher and hopefully a cheer coach while she’s there. 

“I’ve just really always been good at social studies. I had a really impactful middle school teacher who was always pushing me to do my best in that class,” Keller said. “It always just stuck with me. I always liked learning about history, geography and all those different things.”

There is currently a teacher shortage in the state of Missouri, with the main cause being low salaries. Missouri’s state constitution puts the starting salary of a teacher at $25,000, the lowest teacher starting salary in the entire nation. Missouri’s teacher resignation rate is at 11% over the past six years, with the national average sitting at eight percent. 

In the last decade, teacher education programs in the state have dropped 30% by enrollment. Countermeasures to the shrinking number of teachers have seen many Missouri school districts adopt four-day weeks to attract and keep faculty and staff, including local school districts Nodaway-Holt and West Nodaway

Each of the eight students selected received a $3,000 scholarship for the current academic year. According to the University, recruitment efforts also focused on selecting students from underrepresented fields in teaching, such as male students, students of color and students with a lower socioeconomic status.

Junior Nick Bolton, sophomore Grantland Brightwell, freshman Brodie DeSchepper and freshman Carter Edwards, all of whom are physical education majors, received the scholarship. Bolton said they first received news of their scholarships last semester, and they went over the details of the scholarship and what they would do with the grant and called it an “amazing opportunity.”

“I like helping students grow, I like seeing their success,” Bolton said. “I also want to be a coach, too, so physical education was the right path for me and being inside the gym, in that setting with other students, is just a really great opportunity.”

Through the “Grow your own” teaching program, Bolton will get a job in the North Kansas City school district after he graduates, teaching physical education K-12.

“For my future, I’m looking into really taking that physical education major and just really excelling, like being an activities director, maybe moving up there and being an administrator, too,” Bolton said. “It’s a great day to be a Bearcat.”

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