Montana’s office of the commissioner of higher education has made short work of distributing funds for the new kindergarten to grade 12 educator preparation programs approved by the legislature this spring. Three grants were approved this summer for initiatives designed to bring high school juniors into education, marking the state’s first direct investment in a recruitment and retention model that has become increasingly popular. Across the country.
House Bill 403 was passed by the 67th Legislature with strong bipartisan support in April, establishing Montana’s Grow Your Own Teacher grant program. Introducing his bill in late February, Representative Tyson Running Wolf, D-Browning, noted that quality educators willing to move to classrooms in rural or reserve communities are “few and too few” . One solution, he proposed, is to inspire locals with a vested interest in their community to pursue a teaching career in their own backyards. Governor Greg Gianforte promulgated HB 403 on May 14.
Angela McLean, director of American Indian and Minority Success and K-12 Partnerships at OCHE, told Montana Free Press that her office moved quickly to implement HB 403 this summer. OCHE has set a model for the junior high school program and has issued a call for tenders by the end of June. The goal, said McLean, was to get the funding for the grant recipients in time so they could begin developing their Grow Your Own Teacher programs during the fall semester.
Three proposals were received and all three were approved, with each grantee expected to receive a total of $ 112,000 over the next two years. One of the main requirements was that each recipient list a public school district as a partner on the state’s educator shortage hotlist.
“It was a really quick turnaround, and a lot of time and energy went into it,” said McLean. “But right now, we’re really focused on supporting our grantees to develop this infrastructure, get the word out, and get students into their program so that we can support them on their journey to become teachers in Montana. “
One of the three applicants has already made progress in recruiting adults from the community of Browning to join the district’s teaching workforce. Blackfeet Community College partnered with the University of Montana Western in 2016 to pilot a Grow Your Own Teacher program, ultimately providing inspiration for HB 403. McLean said the new round of state grants will enable the program. to add a cohort of senior students to the mix, requiring additional work on the part of program managers to develop courses specific to these students.
The other two recipients are Montana State University Northern in Havre and Stone Child College in Box Elder. The two have partnered with high schools in the area to provide dual credit opportunities and mentorship to high school students specifically focused on educator readiness. McLean said the programs do not yet have specific numbers on student participation, but will likely have that information by the end of November.
Bonnie Rosette, head of the teacher education department at Stone Child College, said the college was leveraging its existing dual credit program to identify and begin mentoring students interested in teaching. About 30 high school students from Box Elder and Rocky Boy Schools are already taking dual credit classes through Stone Child, and Rosette plans to launch a survey of these students this fall to determine how many could enroll in an introductory class to education. this spring. These students would have the opportunity, through the Grow Your Own Teacher grant, to also serve as teaching aids in local schools.
Part of Stone Child College’s intention with the new program is to encourage participating students to take classes in the Cree language – an additional educational skill that Rosette says reflects the specific needs and wants of the surrounding community.
“I think that’s what makes our community distinctive,” said Rosette. “We’re all going to have different plans on how we intend to develop ours in rural education, and it’s just something that would suit ours because I think language is something that’s really important for them. schools and the reserve. “
Curtis Smeby runs the Grow Your Own Teacher program at MSU Northern and is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Le Havre Public Schools. He has spent the last few weeks traveling to Great Falls, Harlem, Poplar and other communities in central Montana to establish a network of partner school districts. Six districts have already signed up to the program in year one, Smeby said, and 15 more will join in year two of the program. Fort Peck Community College will also join as a partner in 2022, he added, calling MSU Northern’s plans “very ambitious.”
One of the goals of the program, which MSU Northern has dubbed the “Teachers of Promise Pathway,” is to create a working group of key stakeholders from all participating communities, as well as Great Falls College and Aaniiih Nakoda College. of Fort Belknap. According to MSU Northern’s implementation plan, the program is expected to serve a total of 30 to 40 high school students over the next two years. Smeby said these students will have the opportunity to take dual credit courses that meet the requirements for a teaching degree at no cost to them, which could advance their degree by a full year. He added that some of this teaching could be individualized based on a particular student’s teaching interests, such as internships alongside music, physical education or art teachers.
“How much we can do this in a short period of time is somewhat debatable, but I think we can try to think about it,” Smeby said. “If somebody says, ‘Oh, I’d like to do that,’ well, we could be the channel to help them do it.”
Even as Montana’s new Grow Your Own Teacher programs advance, it’s unclear exactly how they’ll be able to ensure the new teachers they produce stay. McLean said that in addition to financial and logistical support, the state works to help beneficiaries create local support networks for participating students to encourage them to remain teachers. Smeby said there was no real way to guarantee such an outcome beyond giving students as much support and encouragement as possible.
“I don’t know how you would monitor it or really control it,” he said.
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