Since fall 2022, the USD School of Education has been working in collaboration with the CORE Educational Cooperative to recruit high school students to be teachers.

"This collaboration with the CORE Educational Cooperative demonstrates an innovate approach to address the teacher shortage in rural South Dakota and exemplifies how USD can work flexibly with existing K-12 systems to meet the needs of our state," said USD School of Education Dean Amy Schweinle, Ph.D. "This model works and is ready to expand to more areas in ways that work specifically for them."

The shared vision, Inspiring and Leading Through Excellence in Education, encompasses the development of an online course to expose students to learning practices that will enhance their ability to engage in lifelong learning and help them as they acquire the skills necessary to reach their educational objectives.

Schweinle said the course is a joint effort between USD and CORE. It is made up of two parts: a curriculum developed by USD that counts as one credit toward a teacher education degree at USD and curriculum for a high school English course determined by the state and high school. 

The Sioux Falls School District already implemented a similar program with USD’s School of Education, Teacher Pathways, to inspire high school students to pursue careers in education. With the illustrious success of that program, education leaders at USD and across the state, like Valerie Johnson, wondered if there was a way to expand this program to more rural districts.

"There have been many situations which have made me realize how important it is to promote the profession of teaching across the state," said Johnson, director of CORE and executive director of DIAL. "For example, the number of applications superintendents receive for teachers in rural areas has decreased significantly. By providing opportunities for student teaching and practicums in more rural areas, schools can show future teachers the benefits of living in a small community first hand."

CORE hired Sara Kraft, a high school English teacher in the Platte-Geddes School District, to teach a teacher exploratory class titled, “Aspiration, Dedication, Inspiration: An Introduction to Education” (EDFN 101). Kraft is in her third semester teaching the EDFN 101 and has instructed a total of eight students.

EDFN 101 is a first-year seminar that encourages students to explore the field of education, identify practices and experiences to help them be successful in their college and professional careers, and demonstrate proficiency in discussion, reflection, writing and the use of technology.

“As an education exploratory class, we touch on many aspects of education,” Kraft said. “Students analyze what it takes to be a great teacher and reflect on great teachers they have known. Since we’re based in South Dakota, students also learn about issues facing Native American students.  

“In addition, students interview a practicing teacher, complete a classroom observation and create their own lessons plans,” she added.

The course is offered to students through the state’s DIAL Virtual School, an initiative of the Dakota Interactive Academic Link (DIAL) Consortium. The purpose of the DIAL Virtual School is to provide high-quality online and interactive class options to meet the many different needs of South Dakota students and schools for grades 6-12.

"With small school districts, there is a need for collaboration to provide opportunities," said Johnson. "Between the lack of personnel and fewer funds, offering coursework above and beyond requirements becomes very difficult. The Virtual School through DIAL allows districts to offer students an opportunity to experience and gain knowledge over and above that of basic high school requirements."

“South Dakota, like so many states, is starting to feel the strain of the teacher shortage. Those of us invested in education in the state need to make a conscious effort to reach out to young people interested in becoming teachers,” Kraft said. “By developing an online course, USD can reach so many more students in all areas of the state and provide students with opportunities they might not have had otherwise.”

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