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Department of Education program aims to train, keep teachers in Arkansas

Making sure recent hires stick around long-term is the focus now, and that starts with money.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — School districts in Arkansas are facing quite a dilemma.

"We've been seeing changes in some of the numbers, the average years teaching experience has dropped," Dr. Ivy Pfeffer, deputy commissioner for the Arkansas Department of Education said.

Pfeffer, along with the rest of the department, is on a mission to find a solution to that.

"The number of teachers teaching under a waiver or as a long-term sub or under an emergency permit has increased," Pfeffer said.

Nearly seven years ago, she said ADE noticed a sharp decline in the number of people in teacher preparation programs.

That is something, she said, the department was able to turn around.

"We really started encouraging grow your own programs in our schools and we saw those numbers level out," Pfeffer said.

A big issue that the department faces now is keeping new people onboard.

"What we weren't looking at were the numbers of new teachers that were being hired each year in school districts and that number of new teachers was increasing drastically," Pfeffer said.

Making sure recent hires stick around long-term is the focus now, and that starts with money.

Recent Arkansas legislation actually raised the pay for our classroom heroes.

"We actually saw a $1,200 increase in the average teacher salary from last year to this year," Pfeffer said. 

She adds that the ADE created a new program called the "Teacher Residency Model."

It allows students still in school to start work in a classroom as a certified teaching assistant and climb their way up the career ladder.

Students have the option to do all of this while still in online school also.

The new initiative not only looks at attracting new educators to the profession, but it also allows seasoned instructors to add a helping hand in coaching fellow school teachers.

"The benefits are just being part of your school community and being able to constantly give back and see the the benefits of your work. That is just an amazing opportunity," Pfeffer said.

As of now, there are only 11 Arkansas colleges and universities that have committed to the Teacher Residency Program.

The new initiative will begin in the fall of 2022.

ADE says another benefit of the Teacher Residency Model is that students don't have to leave home or their community. 

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