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University of Alaska works to address teacher shortage

The University of Alaska looks to address the teacher shortage across the state.
The University of Alaska looks to address the teacher shortage across the state.(KTUU)
Published: May. 14, 2021 at 6:27 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 7:31 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -The campus at the University of Alaska Anchorage is quiet these days, now that the spring semester has come to an end. However, UA has a lot of work ahead of them in the coming months.

They’re making an effort to recruit more Alaskans into the education workforce.

“Our goal is to make the career attractive and also reaffirm that it’s rewarding — that working with our young children is rewarding. Preparing the kids for tomorrow,” Steve Atwater, executive dean for the Alaska College of Education at UAS said.

Atwater says fewer Alaskans are becoming teachers these days.

“I think it’s probably because the teacher profession is more and more difficult,” he said.

This is why the university is using the internet to reach out to residents.

“What the university did was create a new website called Alaskateacher.org, and what we recognize is that we need a simple way for the general public to get a quick feel for what it takes to become a teacher,” Atwater said.

They currently have 41 programs across the UA system, however, the university no longer has an accredited education program available in Anchorage.

“It’s really disheartening that we don’t have the program anymore for people, for residents of Alaska to go to become teachers if they want to,” says Kelly Shrein, a graduate of the former existing program who’s currently a fifth-grade teacher at Northwood Elementary.

She says in order to recruit and retain more teachers, the Anchorage program needs to return.

“I absolutely think we should bring something back to Anchorage. We want people to be able to have that option to become educators and unfortunately that’s not being offered right here so they’re looking elsewhere,” Shrein said.

Atwater says having more Alaskans educating our future leaders is extremely important.

“Teachers that understand the Alaska context understand the cultural differences that exist in Alaska. They have much greater success and are able to apply that into the learning environment in a way that those that are prepared outside just can’t,” he said. “We’re working as a system to recruit locally to help local residents.”

In the meantime, Shrein says teachers are stepping up and doing what they can despite the shortages, hoping a solution is found soon.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct quotes from Steve Atwater.

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