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New recruitment program seeks to address teacher shortage

Amid teacher shortages across the state, the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative (WVPEC), in partnership with West Virginia University and the West Virginia Department of Education, is spearheading a program to recruit educators to the Mountain State.

The idea began in a WVPEC board meeting and has since grown into a statewide initiative — Teachers Ascend into West Virginia. The mission? Identify what will bring teachers to West Virginia and develop strategies to be used in schools across the state.

The first stages of the project will involve expert consultations, focus groups and targeted research. This data will be collected both in-state and nationwide to determine what has encouraged teachers to stay in the state, and what would motivate others to move here.

“As a former classroom teacher of 20+ years, I know that a lot of it has to do with pay, but there’s more to it,” said Donna Peduto, program manager and executive director of the WVPEC. Leadership positions and opportunities to advance her education are a few things that kept her in the classroom, both of which will be highlights of Teachers Ascend into West Virginia.

Another focal point of the program is fostering a sense of community for local teachers. A fellowship, offering programming, recreational activities and collaboration opportunities for participating teachers, is one way the group aims to bring teachers closer together.

“A lot of the time, teachers feel very isolated in their classrooms,” said Peduto. “The fact that you would be part of something bigger is very attractive to teachers.”

Tight-knit community is just one unique aspect of West Virginia that Peduto hopes will bring educators to the state.

“Our low cost of living, the relatively safe environment, the beautiful outdoors and that sense of community — that’s something you don’t find everywhere,” she said. “Those are things I thought about as a young teacher, and why I wanted to stay.”

Teachers Ascend into West Virginia is one of eight recipients of Remake Learning’s Moonshot Grants, an organization focused on bold ideas and advancing the education field. As part of this goal, Teachers Ascend into West Virginia doesn’t just aim for educational growth in West Virginia, but to inspire similar programs across the country.

“We’re hoping it will help other states or other areas to make their own teacher program,” said Peduto. “[Remake Learning] wants you to create something like a playbook that other states can replicate. I think that’s so important to make it sustainable.”

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