New K-State program to help fill need for elementary school teachers

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Every year, it is getting harder to fill Kansas classrooms with teachers. 

According to an August report released by the Kansas State Department of Education, rural and urban school districts are especially struggling to fill teaching positions. One reason is because fewer college students are majoring in education. Another reason is more teachers are either retiring or resigning. 

“Increasingly people are not choosing the traditional pathways to teaching,” said Thomas Vontz, a Kansas State University College of Education professor. 

RELATED: Kansas faces another round of teacher shortages

This year, K-State launched a new program called ‘Master of Arts in Teaching’ (MAT). The program is an online course that allows those with undergraduate degrees to get a masters degree in elementary teaching in 12 months, rather than three or four years. 

Vontz helped create the program. 

“The long-term goal of this is to provide a pathway to teaching specifically for people who have undergraduate degrees, who have life experience and want to go into teaching for all the right reasons,” said Vontz. 

MAT students can complete their online portions whenever their schedules allow. They all start student teaching in January. 

This year’s initial class is made up of 49 students. Their ages range from 23 to 60 years old. 

“I wanted to be a teacher when I first got out of college and things didn’t work out. I got into business, business management,” said Steven Thomas, a MAT student now doing his student teaching in Kansas City, Kansas. “I could not have dropped what I was doing for even two years, certainly not four years to start over from scratch.” 

Students like Thomas who agree to spend at least a year teaching within a 50-mile radius around Dodge City, Garden City, Great Bend, Liberal, Wichita, Topeka or Kansas City can qualify for financial help. The Board of Regents rewarded these students with $6,000 fellowships. 

“Education is a way for me to [make a difference]. I won’t just be bringing home a paycheck but hopefully making [the community] a better place and giving a kid a leg up,” said Thomas. “It’s my hope to stay there and make a career in that district.” 

To find out more about the program, visit the K-State website.

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Ariel Rothfield can be reached at Ariel.Rothfield@KSHB.com.

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