New program can help paraprofessionals get their teaching degree for less

Program could help alleviate South Dakota's teacher shortage
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 4:40 PM MDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2023 at 9:37 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - On average, achieving a 4-year degree from college can cost upwards of $15,000 a year. But receiving a paraprofessional certification, costs a little more than $80 in total, resulting in some people turning away from becoming licensed teachers.

For most, teaching is a profession many get into because of an experience they had with a teacher when they were in school.

“I’ve always just loved taking care of kids and being around them. Then as I got older, I realized I had really great teachers growing up, and I wanted to be that teacher for my students, like that positive role model,” said kindergarten teacher Brooklyn Fauth.

Trying to fill teacher positions can be difficult. The South Dakota Department of Education recently created a program to help more people reach that goal. While the program isn’t completely free, it can cost as low as $500 a semester.

“What that is doing is taking people who are currently educational paraprofessionals, or what we call teacher aids, and taking them through a 2-year process that will help those people achieve their 4-year degree, and also become fully certified to be a teacher. So if all those people were to get through that, that would have a major impact on the teacher shortage in South Dakota,” said Joseph Graves, Secretary of Education for South Dakota.

Black Hills State University piloted the program, hoping to help local school districts fill their teaching positions.

“We were the first to offer that opportunity for paraprofessionals in an attempt for districts to grow their own teachers. So that we could take people who are already working in the district, help them obtain their bachelor’s degree, and result in certification for them,” Faye LaDuke-Pelster, Chair of the School of Education at BHSU said.

Giving paraprofessionals the chance to become licensed teachers, can not only help the teacher shortage but will also result in the students getting the education they need to succeed.

“I want my students coming to school to have a good day. For some students, school is a safe place, so I want to be that safe person for them, so they can trust me. I just want to be here so I can provide what is best for each student,” Fauth continued.