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Omaha Public Schools partners with UNO to address teacher shortage, help retain current teachers

Four different programs will help foster pipeline and retention
Posted at 7:16 AM, Sep 29, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A nationwide teacher shortage has impacted school districts, students, fellow teachers and parents. Many have credited the pandemic, demands on teachers, a shift in workforce and greater demand as just a few reasons for the shortage.

In light of the challenges, Omaha Public Schools (OPS) has partnered with the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) to address the gaps.

$14.8 million from OPS ESSER funds will support four programs to help retain current teachers and create a pipeline for high school and college students.

"I don’t believe in throwing up your hands, you roll up your sleeves when faced with a problem. We have two choices and our choice is to move forward and work with our partners to have some opportunities with our young people," Dr. Cheryl Logan, Superintendent of OPS, said.

"We’re here to solve real problems. We’re not going to talk about it, where going to solve it," UNO Chancellor Joanne Li said.

The four programs include the Teacher Advanced Academics Graduate Program, which allows current OPS teachers to become certified to teach dual enrollment program by providing graduate courses for qualifying high school teachers. The Accelerating Teacher Learning, which allows teachers to expand their skillset.

The Teacher Academy Project helps those with a bachelor's degree in a different subject to go back to school to get their teacher certifications. The Teacher Scholar Academy Program creates a pipeline for UNO students to go to school to become a teacher.

Current participants in the Teacher Scholar Academy, and recent graduate of Benson High School, River Magisana, says he's thankful for the opportunity as the programs provide full scholarships, allowing students and teachers to expand their skillsets for free, removing barriers.

"I think if the Teacher Scholar Program didn’t exist I would not be a teacher quite frankly. It’s been a monumental help in being able to afford college,"Magisana said. "I'm a first generation college student so being able to go through and get a degree is something really important to me to complete the cycle my parents weren’t able to, so without the support the TSA provides I would probably be doing something completely different."

Magisana is passionate and hopes to become an English language arts high school teacher. He says his passion comes from his own experience.

"What inspired me was the lack of support I felt as a student who had learning disabilities and I knew that I didn’t want to have another student got through what I did," Magisana said. "I had to figure everything out on my own and had to put the pieces together myself. I think teaching is something that shapes a students life."

Magisana is in the first cohort of the program in partnership with OPS and UNO, but UNO has experience with the programs and says they have been successful with an over 90% retention rate.