Officials with Missouri State University and Missouri State Outreach in Springfield have moved the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (BSEd) degree program offered in West Plains to an all-evening program.
Deanna Smith, regional outreach administrator with Missouri State Outreach, said the decision to offer all courses for the program during evening hours was made to meet the ongoing challenges area public schools are facing with filling open positions.
“Many of our students are working in public schools as paraprofessionals, substitute teachers or in other capacities during the day. Moving to an evening program allows them to work and meet critical shortages while earning their teaching degree locally,” she explained.
“Our rural schools are struggling to find qualified, high-quality teachers for their classrooms,” added Dr. Denise Cunningham, associate dean of MSU’s College of Education. “By offering our BSEd program in the evenings, we believe we can provide more access for people who might want to become a teacher but can’t attend college courses during the day because of their current work situation. We hope the evening cohort will open doors for students to follow their passion to become a teacher.”
Prior to this fall, the BSEd program was offered in day and evening cohorts; the day cohort started during each fall semester, and the evening cohort started each spring, Smith explained.
“As more of our students began securing jobs in area schools, the decision was made to move to an evening only format to better accommodate their schedules balancing work and school,” Smith said.
“In addition, many of our students secure teaching positions before the graduate from our program, depending on eligibility and where they are in the program,” she added.
With the change, students will be able to enter the program in the fall or spring semester as they finish their associate’s degree through Missouri State University-West Plains. There is no limit to the number of students who can enter the program each semester, Smith said.
Classes for the program are offered in a variety of formats, but the majority of the classes are offered in-person at 4 p.m. or later at Gohn Hall on the MSU-WP campus. Additional courses are offered online and in blended formats, Smith said.
“We hope the evening cohort will increase the number of students we can prepare to be teachers,” Cunningham said. “These teachers will help us address the teacher shortage in Missouri, which is especially challenging for our rural schools.”
Tim Tucker, director of web conferencing and off-campus programs with Missouri State Outreach, said the change will be a huge benefit for all involved.
“Our Outreach program is always looking for ways to create win-win relationships and outcomes. Moving our elementary education program to an evening only format creates a win-win for everyone involved in the program,” he said.
“Our students are now able to gain employment and enter the public school systems earlier, getting valuable experience as paras, substitute teachers or in other staff positions,” he added. “Local school districts will benefit from a dedicated and qualified pool of candidates for sometimes difficult-to-fill positions.”
For more information about the BSEd program offered by MSU and Missouri State Outreach in West Plains or other Outreach programs available locally, contact Smith at 417-255-7777 or DeannaSmith@MissouriState.edu.