Teacher shortages run rampant in rural communities across Montana and MSU’s doing something about it. MSU’s Department of Education received a grant from its partners and the U.S. Department of Education for a program which provides training for teachers in rural schools. 

The Teacher Quality Partnership totals $6.2 million. Half of the funding came from the U.S. Department of Education and half came from partner organizations. Principal investigator Anne Ewbank and co-principal investigators Tricia Seifert, Jennifer Luebeck and Jayne Downey, made up the team responsible for organizing the program. 

“Our common goal is to ensure that every student, from Broadus to Lolo, and from Scobey to Troy, has access to highly effective educators,” Ewbank told MSU’s news service. “The Teacher Quality Partnership grant has the potential to strengthen K-12 education in rural communities. When rural schools thrive, Montana thrives.”

The funds will go towards 18 teachers in the first year through an online “Master of Arts” program. The online class opened for enrollment last summer. The course results make students eligible for an initial Montanan teacher’s license and leaves teachers with the ability to teach English, science and math in elementary or high schools. The program focuses on current rural residents who already have bachelor’s degrees.

After the third year of the program, 78 teachers will be educated. 30 teachers will be enrolled in years two and three. Depending on the grade level taught, the program takes 12-15 months to finish. During their full-time study, teachers will receive a living-wage stipend and will not have to pay tuition and fees. At the conclusion of the program, the students will be required to teach for three years in a rural school. “Our intention is really to provide an opportunity for education for those who don’t have the capacity to come to our campus,” Seifert said. Another function of the program will be to address the teacher retention issue on the administrative side by providing professional development opportunities for principals, superintendents and school boards in rural districts.

As the teachers receive support through these online professional development learning modules, rural education in Montana will be improved and student potential maximized.

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