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UW Student Benefits From Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment Program to Stay in Wyoming

June 26, 2009

Kelley Humphrey of Yoder always knew that after graduating from the University of Wyoming she wanted to stay in Wyoming to begin her teaching career.

Humphrey, who received her degree as a secondary mathematics teacher, set her goal to find a job in Wyoming after graduating in May.  If students like Humphrey agree to teach in Wyoming, their loans to pursue specific critical endorsements will be forgiven through the Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment Program (TSLRP), which helps address the teacher shortage in Wyoming.

The Wyoming State Legislature in 2005 approved the TSLRP to promote training Wyoming teachers in science, mathematics and special education.

The 2007 legislature expanded the successful program to include foreign language teachers pursuing an initial teaching license, and this year, the program added teaching endorsements in reading and English as a second language.

"The goal is to provide loans to students who will stay in Wyoming after graduation and work as teachers," says Judy Ellsworth, UW College of Education director of teacher education.

Only Wyoming residents or graduates of Wyoming high schools are eligible to participate in the Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment Program for initial licensure programs, but practicing Wyoming teachers also are eligible for the TSLRP endorsement programs. Program participants can repay their loans by working as certified teachers in Wyoming public schools after completing their teacher education program. They must teach at least 50 percent of their work hours in special education, math, science, foreign language, reading or English as a second language.

Since the program began four years ago, 104 Wyoming students have received TSLRP funds to complete initial licensure education degrees. Of those, 29 were math and science students, 41 received special education endorsements and five received endorsements for foreign languages.

An endorsement is not a stand-alone teacher certification program, Ellsworth says. The Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board issues endorsements to teachers who hold Wyoming teaching licenses in elementary (K-6) or secondary (6-12) education in addition to their initial certification.

The eligible teacher education programs covered by the TSLRP are offered only through the UW College of Education, says Kay Persichitte, education dean.

"This program approved and funded by the state legislature is critical because these are the same areas of shortages nationwide and our UW graduates are consistently targeted for hire by other states. This is a huge incentive for our students to stay in Wyoming," Persichitte says.

The national focus has turned to improving reading achievement, she says, and the reading endorsement is a "potentially powerful professional development option" for teachers to improve their teaching of reading for all age levels in grades K-12.

"As the demographics of our state K-12 population continue to change, the need for teachers prepared to work with children whose first language is not English becomes critical for both English-speakers and non-English-speakers to get the differentiated instruction within Wyoming classrooms," Persichitte adds.

Starting in the fall, Humphrey will teach ninth grade mathematics at Natrona County High School in Casper. She says the state legislature's foresight in approving the TSLRP enabled her to stay in Wyoming.

"The Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment Program was a ‘no-brainer' for me. I am Wyoming born and raised and always planned to stay in Wyoming once obtaining a degree," she says. "Therefore, once becoming aware of the TSLRP, I immediately applied. In addition to the fact that the program rewarded me for staying in Wyoming, it was a huge help financially while attending college."

Natrona County School District Superintendent Joel Dvorak says the program is a good incentive for Wyoming teachers.

"As superintendent, I appreciate the Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment Program and thank our legislators for their continued support of education in our state. This program provides an incentive to keep talented young educators in Wyoming schools working with Wyoming children," Dvorak says. "Talented teachers working in our classrooms help students become champions."

Humphrey appreciates the program for students like her, especially those who graduated before the Hathaway Scholarship program was in place.

"I was fortunate enough to be awarded the full amount from the loan program both my junior and senior years. This was a major factor in my preparation as a teacher," she says.

"Wyoming high schools in general provide incentive for teachers, both because of the caliber of schools, and because Wyoming is one of the few states that rewards its teachers appropriately financially," Humphrey says. "Because of the TSLRP, I had the financial resources to receive a strong education as a secondary mathematics teacher. That in turn allowed me to have a very successful student teaching semester, which led to a fantastic career opportunity at one of Wyoming's premier school districts."


Posted on Friday, June 26, 2009

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