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More than 100 students have received support of a state-funded initiative to help keep Wyoming students in the state to begin their teaching careers, says the University of Wyoming's director of teacher education.
If students agree to teach in state, their loans to pursue specific critical endorsements will be forgiven through the Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment Program (TSLRP), which helps alleviate Wyoming's teacher shortage. 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 last year, the program added teaching endorsements in reading and English as a second language (ESL).
"The goal is to provide loans to Wyoming students who want to stay and teach in Wyoming after graduation," says Judy Ellsworth, UW College of Education director of teacher education. "This also is a great benefit to school districts who seek qualified teachers in these high-needs areas."
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 ESL.
Since the program began four years ago, more than 100 Wyoming students have received TSLRP funds to complete initial licensure education degrees. As of the 2008-09 school year, 46 of these students have completed their degrees in one of the four initial certification areas. An additional 17 students are anticipated to complete their degrees in the 2009-10 academic year.
"There are no ESL and reading endorsements completers yet because these were the most recently identified areas," Ellsworth says.
At UW this school year, 16 new students are taking advantage of the program for the first time and will complete the program at a later date. They are being certified in math, foreign languages, science and special education, Ellsworth says.
The eligible teacher education programs covered by the TSLRP are offered only through the UW College of Education. Kay Persichitte, UW College of Education dean, says the program funded by the state legislature is critical because these are the same areas of shortages nationwide and UW graduates are consistently targeted for hire by other states.
"This is a huge incentive for our students to stay in Wyoming," Persichitte says.