Childs: Competing for quality educators with world-class development

Two weeks ago, after months of preparation, the Mitchell School District and Dakota Wesleyan University launched what we hope was the first annual Aspiring Educator Summit.

Joe Childs, superintendent for Mitchell School District

South Dakota is facing a severe shortage of educators, a situation that has persisted for the past several years. It was not that long ago, however, that any teacher vacancy would result in dozens of applications. If you were a job seeker on the hunt for a teaching position, you knew that you would be required to stand out from the crowded pool of qualified applicants — there was a concerted effort to display, in all ways reasonable, how your skills would place you at a rank worthy of being hired above all other candidates.

This is still the case, but most often these roles have completely reversed. It is now the school district making every effort to attract candidates by displaying the progressive attributes that set them apart from all other schools.

Although the high quality of candidates is nothing less than you would expect, there are simply far less of them. With much fewer applicants, any school district with a vacancy is aggressively competing for the same quality educators.

The Mitchell School District has been engaged in attracting and retaining quality educators and one of the approaches for doing such, is through succession planning. To this end, with the steady guidance of two of Mitchell’s top educators, Madi Miller and Rebecca Millan, our public high school sponsors a group of aspiring educators in a "grow your own" program titled Educators Rising. Educators Rising is a community-based movement with a presence in all 50 states. In our case, the aspiring educators meet regularly to facilitate introductory professional development. The group leaders facilitate and provide opportunities to learn more about careers in education as well as the organization and efficiency for future success in the classroom.

Just recently, a local educator took this planning to another level of excellence. With the leadership of Dakota Wesleyan Professor, Dr. Melissa Weber, Mitchell has grown its aspiring educator group to also include a Virtual Educators Rising Chapter. This iteration was created to address the need for high school students who, for various reasons, were unable to get a group sponsored in their home school district. The Mitchell School District now assists in the support of both the MHS Chapter and the Mitchell Area Virtual Chapter.


So, how do you channel the energy of high school students who are chomping at the bit to become the next best teacher? Well, Dr. Weber and I believe that you provide world-class professional development. So, that is exactly what we teamed up to accomplish.

Two weeks ago, after months of preparation, the Mitchell School District and Dakota Wesleyan University launched what we hope was the first annual Aspiring Educator Summit, and we kicked it off with guitar music.

The summit, which was hosted by the Mitchell School District and Dakota Wesleyan University, and took place at Wesleyan’s School of Business, Innovation and Leadership — an impressive venue. The day began with fellowship, scones, and coffee (some of us believe that coffee drinking is a prerequisite to a future in the classroom) and really took off when with lessons by Dr. Monte Selby, an award-winning teacher, principal, professor, author, and Grammy Award winning songwriter, on guitar.

This first-ever summit was attended by over 50 area high school students and at times, when joined by our future teachers from Dakota Wesleyan, the attendance grew to nearly 80. In addition to our keynote, students were able to select from a number of breakout session that were led by educators from Mitchell and the surrounding region — all aimed at providing relevant preparation for a future career in education. Among the list of breakout session were “Coaching, Officiating, and Advising,” “Classroom & Behavior Management,” and what to expect in “Day 1, Week 1, Year 1.”

It is true that South Dakota has a teacher shortage, there’s just no doubt about it. There is an urgent need to plan for the future educational needs of our students, but I remain the incurable optimist. And, after the excitement generated by this first-time summit, I am really looking forward to the interviews we will schedule in four, five, even six to eight years from now.

You see what started with a little guitar music, turned into roaring excitement about the future of South Dakota education. Our current students, tomorrow’s educators, are actively engaged, they are poised, and mostly they are prepared … prepared to teach and prepared to lead.

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