Omaha Public Schools making strides in teacher shortage with student teacher committed to full-time roles

Posted at 10:22 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 23:22:24-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — For Kindergarten teacher, Sarah Vaith, teaching was a passion that sparked at a young age.

"So it all started in second grade, a while ago now," Vaith said.

Her teacher at the time was getting rid of old materials, so Vaith held on to them and created her own classroom in her basement.

"For years I had my own classroom in the basement, teaching absolutely no one," Vaith said.

An Iowa State graduate, she spent her final semester in the fall as a student teacher at Highland Elementary.

"I left every day, like even if it was a hard day, 'cause no day is easy here. But even if it was a hard day I was like, yep, I love it," Vaith said.

Omaha Public Schools said in the fall they had three times as many student teachers as in previous semesters, with over 100. Forty of those have since taken full-time jobs in the district.

Vaith is one of those. Strengthening the pipeline of students teachers to full-time teachers and chipping away at the industry's shortage.

"One of the wonderful things. When we do have the opportunity to have a student teacher that transitions to (an) opening we have in the building, we have an opportunity to get to know them, learn a little bit about them, see how they are interacting with students and our community," said Kerri Murtaugh, principal at Highland Elementary school.

The number of prospects keeps growing. For the winter/spring semester, OPS welcomed 140 student teachers to the district.

"Building those relationships and giving them a chance to feel success and to again you know create different opportunities in the classroom," said Murtaugh.

For Murtaugh, watching new student teachers come from all over the country is refreshing.

"They are bringing those experiences to education and to the Omaha Public schools. And then we are learning and growing from them as much as we are hopefully sharing with them," Murtaugh said.

Vaith said her student teaching taught her 40% of what she knows. And now, less than a month after getting a permanent classroom she is developing her own routine, teaching style and connections with her students.

"I've gotten a lot of experiences with the teachers I was with and now just kind of finding my own path," she said.

Last January, OPS announced an incentive for teachers. It's a stipend of $9,000 per semester to attract student teachers.

Vaith told 3 News Now that the stipend was pivotal in being able to move to Omaha and fully focus on her student teaching experience, to get where she is today.

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