School districts in Southcentral look at hiring options after UAA accreditation decision

Published: Apr. 10, 2019 at 3:49 PM AKDT
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Sitting in the hallway at Swanson Elementary School, student-teacher Jessica Osterkamp sounds out words with a student.

"Wuh-ill-ah, what does that say?" Osterkamp asks. "'Will', beautiful!"

Osterkamp graduates this year with a teaching degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

She will be one of the last students with a degree from this program after the College of Education lost its accreditation and the University of Alaska Board of Regents agreed with the university president to shut down the program.

"That was, to be frank, infuriating in that we all got a very non-descriptive email of what was going on and it was very confusing and we weren't sure what was going on," Osterkamp said. "Then we went to that first meeting they had and it just sent like terror through everybody like, 'Oh my gosh are we not going to graduate we worked so hard for this.'"

Osterkamp, who is from the Valley, says she decided to go to UAA because she wanted to work in the area and be closer to family.

It's a familiar story for many UAA students and one major benefit to both the Mat-Su Borough School district and the Anchorage School District, which recruit new teachers from UAA.

"When they are in our system and they get to see what our school system is all about and what we have to offer students and families and become a part of our system it definitely helps us retain them into jobs later," Kersten Johnson-Struempler, Senior Director of Secondary Education at ASD said.

Most semesters ASD has between 60 to 80 student teachers and typically the district has to hire anywhere from 200 to 300 new teachers every year.

ASD says it has a close relationship with UAA and there are plans in the works by the university to create a satellite teacher program to ensure there are new student teachers available in both the Anchorage and the Valley.

"I know that they've made a recommendation for University of Alaska Fairbanks to take over the college of Ed. Teacher Prep program and have a satellite campus here in Anchorage," Johnson-Struempler said, "and we really believe that they'll do their due diligence with that and work with us to retain our student teaching population so that we can then hire our teachers and keep them here in Alaska."