DSU Offers Para-Educators Coursework

The South Dakota Department of Education distributed applications to its new Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway program to thousands of para-educators (paras) in all accredited school districts across the state yesterday.

According to the SD Dept. of Ed, the program intends to “take already successful educators – para-educators – and help them pursue certification to become fully accredited teachers.”

Through the support of the Board of Regents, Dakota State University will offer the necessary coursework for elementary education and special education, culminating in a student-teacher experience in the para’s home district. Northern State University will provide the coursework for secondary education. All coursework will be offered virtually, so the participants can continue working as a para while enrolled. 

The Department of Education will provide oversight and funding, and the Department of Labor will contribute funding to keep any costs to the apprentice teachers low. 

Secretary of E education Joseph Graves says that won’t entirely solve the shortages school districts are experiencing now,but if it can knock that number down by a third, that is definitely significant. It will also be life-changing for some of our para-educators. 

Dr. David De Jong, Dean Of the College of Education says Dakota State is excited about developing this pipeline for prospective teachers. There is no better place to recruit our future teachers than our current classrooms in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Teacher Placement Center Data shows 545 teacher openings in South Dakota are either unfilled or needed for next year. Over 175 of these positions are in special education or elementary education. The South Dakota Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway will help up to 60 South Dakotan paraprofessionals earn their teaching degree, which will help to address the shortage.  Applications for the program can be found on Our Dakota Dreams website.