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UNI College of Education makes adjustments to help more students become teachers

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG)-Fewer people are pursuing a career in education, and it’s something that’s contributing to a shortage of teachers statewide. But the University of Northern Iowa says their enrollment in the College of Education has remained steady for the last decade.

”We continue to lead the state in total number of teachers prepared and we’re one of the largest in the whole nation,” said Benjamin Forsyth, Director of Educator Preparation at UNI.

UNI has a long standing tradition of being a great school for those pursuing teaching. It’s that tradition leaders believe has helped them maintain enrollment at around 2,200 students a year working to become teachers.

”We are more or less at a flat line of receiving the same number of students while the state continues to lose more and more,” Forsyth said.

It’s something schools are noticing as they go to fill open positions, according to the statewide teacher’s union representing 50,000 contracts in Iowa.

”We’ve had a shortage of personal who are applying for our positions. We are at a crisis point with that this year,” Mike Beranek told TV-9, President of the Iowa State Education Association.

He believes a negative narrative towards educators is playing a role in the shortage. That’s something UNI echoed.

”We don’t take care of our teachers the way we ought to. We don’t often talk about teaching as the best profession that can be gone into. We can do a better job at that,” Forsyth explained.

The University has recently taken some initiatives to try and attract more students to the field of teaching.

One of those is the recent launch of an all online elementary education program to help para-educators become teachers without having to be physically on campus. It’s known as the Purple Pathway.

”When students know that they’re going to be able to graduate on time or early it’s attractive. When students know that they’re going to be able to have an alternative way to be able to get into teaching that’s not going to be burdensome to them they’re going to want to come. And we’ve actually already, we’ve actually already seen that in that Purple Pathway,” Forsyth said.

They hope continuing the effort will help Iowa schools fill more openings in the years to come.

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