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DPI working on a "paid internship" program for teachers

North Dakota’s Department of Public Instruction is working on a “paid apprenticeship” program for teachers.

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler said this follows up on a program DPI launched with Minot State University — a “grow your own” program, for para-professionals who work with special needs students.

"There are people working in our schools across the state as para-professionals, and they are earning money," Baesler said. "They don't want to leave their communities to go to college, and they can't afford or don't want to leave those wage earning positions."

Baesler said the Minot State program is called “para-to-professional.” She said those para-professionals are offered scholarships. Some of the money for the scholarships came from pandemic relief in the ESSER program.

"Our first cohort of 'grow-your-own' para-professionals becoming special education teachers are currently student teaching," Baesler said. "They will be licensed special education teachers by the end of this school year."

Baesler said there are about 70 in the program.

So Baesler said DPI decided if this is a good program, that helps lessen teacher shortages in special ed, maybe it will be good for other areas. So she said DPI has offered another grant opportunity for general ed teachers.

Baesler said the state of Tennessee did the same thing – but has now gone father. She said Tennessee has now received approval from the federal Department of Labor that it’s “grow your own” program is eligible for paid apprenticeships. She said she will be meeting soon with Tennessee education leaders, to look at it.

"We want to make sure North Dakota is leveraging those same opportunities to make the 'grow-your-own' programs 'apprenticible,' to ensure that not only will the future teachers' book materials and tuition are paid, but also that they're being paid for their work as apprentices while they work to become licensed teachers," Baesler said.

Baesler said this could be a tool to entice people into the teaching profession. But she said most importantly, it will help those individuals who are already working in the schools who want to become licensed teachers, but can't afford to quit their jobs to get their degree.

"It will allow them to remain in their jobs, have a source of income, and get credit for the work they're already doing in their schools, while they're getting their official degrees that will lead them to teaching licenses," Baesler said.

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