MEQUON, Wisc. — One local university is offering a new program to try to help offset the teacher shortage in Wisconsin.
Madeline McKinstry is studying to be a teacher. She's getting some hands-on experience at St. John Lutheran School in her hometown of West Bend.
"I wanted to become a teacher mostly because of my kids," McKinstry said. "At first that was the main reason why, because I love teaching them."
McKinstry has two kids and one on the way. She works full time and her husband is also in school. Fitting in an education degree seemed impossible until she started a new program at Concordia University in Mequon.
Concordia recently got approval from the state's Department of Public Instruction to offer a three-year bachelor's degree in elementary education. It's all online, and students who live far away can complete their student teaching close to home.
"I had to be online, I can't go in-person with my schedule," McKinstry said. "So when I saw that three-year program, I was like, this is perfect timing."
Concordia also offers a three-year program for secondary social studies and English, and they are working on getting programs in math and special education.
"Literally 30 minutes before we began speaking, I had somebody call me from a nearby district saying, we are in desperate need of a social studies teacher, do you have one? We get those phone calls every single day," said Dr. Adam Paape, Concordia's chair for secondary education and the program director for the accelerated elementary education program.
A recent report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum shows bachelor's degrees in education went down 19.7% from 2011 to 2019 across at least 18 colleges and universities. The forum analyzed data from the Higher Education Regional Alliance. The report also states the Department of Workforce Development projects there will be 2,565 preschool and K-12 open teaching positions each year from 2018 to 2028 in southeast Wisconsin.
Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday the state will give $1 million to the Teacher Training and Recruitment Grant program.
"There is a massive need, I can't say that enough," Paape said. "There are way more openings in schools for teachers than there are teachers being prepared. As we think through how we can help with that, that's what these programs are."
McKinstry is scheduled to finish her program in spring 2023.
"Once I started the program, I realized how much of a difference I wanted to make in children's lives," she said. "It's a lot of work. It's definitely worth it."