Sahuarita Unified School District and University of Arizona Partner on Unique Teacher Recruitment Effort

Sahuarita, AZ | Submitted by Scott Downs

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Within the next four years, more than 20 percent of Arizona teachers are eligible to retire. Coupled with a teacher shortage that is already well established in the state, and lagging enrollments in education colleges, this is creating a headache for schools with no end in sight.

But the team at Sahuarita Unified School District has created a unique solution in partnership with University of Arizona College of Education. The Teaching Fellows program will allow Sahuarita to identify and prepare potential teachers. And there’s a big need since the district has seen substantial growth over the past five years. The proximity to major businesses, such as Raytheon, as well as the Tucson metro area, has created a boom locally; the district currently has close to 6,500 students to educate.

Through the Sahuarita Teaching Fellows program, University of Arizona students who hail from the Sahuarita area, as well as Sahuarita Unified classified employees, are eligible for financial grants and other support to aid them in completing their teaching degree.

The program is expected to make a positive change for Sahuarita Unified since teachers are most likely to stay in jobs where they feel a part of the community. And it carries additional benefits for the prospective teachers, who can earn up to $4,800 for completing their teaching certification and teaching in a Sahuarita school for three years. This series of grants is helping to eliminate a major barrier to teaching – finances. What’s more, the future educators receive valuable, real-world experience in local schools and guidance from a dedicated mentor teacher.

As part of the process, University of Arizona conducts twice-yearly meetings with the students, their mentors, school leadership, and other program participants to ensure that the collaborative learning process is as effective as possible.

In its second year, the Teaching Fellows program already has four students, two of whom will graduate this spring. Interest in the program is very high and the team will be actively recruiting for coming cohorts. In fact, this pilot program has been so successful that University of Arizona is expanding the fellowship opportunity to Flowing Wells Unified School District this coming year.

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