A teacher training program in Worthington aims to address a problem seen across Minnesota and the United States.

“It’s happening across the nation that we are running into a teacher shortage,” said Nancy Fasching, community impact director at the Hutchinson-headquartered Southwest Initiative Foundation.

SWIF joined with Worthington Public School District, Minnesota West Community and Technical College and Southwest Minnesota State University to create the Southwest Minnesota Teacher Preparation Partnership. It offers opportunities for local students to take classes toward a teaching degree in high school, and for community members who may want to change careers to obtain their degree without traveling.

“Those classes can transfer into credits at Minnesota West,” Fasching said.

The partnership also aims to increase the diverse pool of quality teacher candidates in the region. It also focuses on support for high school students, especially students of color who don’t often see teachers who look like them.

According to the 2019 Biennial Minnesota Teacher Supply and Demand Report from Wilder Research, students of color across the state make up 34 percent of the student population, but teachers of color account for 4 percent of the profession.

Previous grants from the McKnight Foundation and Southwest Initiative Foundation supported planning efforts and the launch of a Future Teachers of America Club at Worthington High School. About 40 students participated in the 2018-19 school year. Now the McKnight Foundation is injecting another $600,000.

Fasching said SWIF hopes to see the program grow in southwest Minnesota, and that such programs may soon become more commonplace in the United States.

— Jeremy Jones

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