Missouri State University-West Plains has been given a $45,000 award from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to support the Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT) program.
The funds are part of DESE’s annual Developing an Educator Workforce that Expands Yearly (DEWEY) Awards. The award program, funded through appropriations from the state’s Lottery Proceeds Fund, is designed to help colleges and universities increase the number of students in their teacher education programs and strengthen support for current students in those programs to increase retention. MSU-WP was one of five two-year colleges to receive a $45,000 award this year. Fifteen four-year institutions received $75,000 each for their programs.
“We’re thrilled to receive this award from DESE for our program and our students,” said ReBena Atkinson, director of the AAT program. “The funds will be used for a number of projects that will support not only the AAT program, but also the teacher education completion program offered by Missouri State University’s Outreach office on our campus and area school districts during a critical teacher shortage.”
Projects that will be funded by the award include conferences and informational events designed to inspire and motivate current and prospective education students, as well as educators already working in area school districts.
The Professional Educator Recruitment Conference will connect potential paraprofessionals and pre-service teachers with 37 different school districts in the area that are under-resourced and need these individuals to fill needed positions.
“The conference will act as a crucial bridge connecting under-resourced school districts with potential teachers. Paraprofessionals and pre-service teachers seeking employment can interact with representatives from various schools, learning about their philosophy, educational goals and work culture. Likewise, schools can articulate their requirements and expectations, ensuring a more informed selection process. This direct engagement facilitates a mutually beneficial relationship, aligning the aspiration of educators with the visions of local school districts,” Atkinson explained.
The Missouri Educators for Tomorrow’s Schools Conference (MoETS) will focus on junior high and high school students who are interested in entering the education field. They will participate in a mini-professional development day with high-interest breakout sessions provided by talented local teachers.
“The MoETS Conference will inspire and motivate junior high and high school students to consider teaching as a fulfilling and impactful career choice,” Atkinson explained. “Presenting teaching as a dynamic and rewarding profession can ignite a passion for education and instill a desire to shape the minds of future generations.
“By hosting MoETS, the MSU-WP AAT program will be able to share the need for passionate educators while highlighting great teachers that our program has produced. Alumni will have the opportunity to participate in the event and share their excitement for the field of education, which will encourage prospective students to enroll in education programs at the university,” she added.
Informational nights for paraprofessionals and substitute teachers will show those attending the steps they need to take to fill these roles and how these paths will allow them to work in area school districts while they complete their degrees.
“Informational nights for prospective student teachers and paraprofessionals with reimbursement fee opportunities is a strategic initiative that aligns with the goal of nurturing a well-qualified and dedicated education workforce,” Atkinson said. “It also encourages attendees to further their education by attending MSU-WP.
“By attracting passionate individuals to explore careers in education and providing financial support for their training and further education, we contribute to a brighter future for education and the betterment of society at large,” she added.
For more information about MSU-WP’s AAT program or any of the upcoming DEWEY Award projects, contact Atkinson at ReBenaAtkinson@MissouriState.edu or call 417-255-7904.