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Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway accepting applications

May 15, 2023

Today, the South Dakota Department of Education distributed applications to its new Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway program to thousands of para-educators (paras) in all accredited school districts across the state.

According to the SD Dept. of Ed, the program intends to “take already successful educators – para-educators – and help them pursue certification to become fully accredited teachers.”

Through the support of the Board of Regents, Dakota State University will offer the necessary coursework for elementary education and special education, culminating in a student-teacher experience in the para’s home district. Northern State University will provide the coursework for secondary education.

All coursework will be offered virtually, so the participants can continue working as a para while enrolled. This is an important aspect of all apprenticeship programs.

The Department of Education will provide oversight and funding, and the Department of Labor will contribute funding to keep any costs to the apprentice teachers low. Offering the program at a very low cost to the participants is an essential aspect of the program to remove as many barriers as possible.

“That won’t entirely solve the shortages school districts are experiencing now,” said Joseph Graves, Secretary of Education, “but if we can knock that number down by a third, that is definitely significant. It will also be life-changing for some of our para-educators. These are people who have already proven themselves to be fine educators. This program will give them the extra knowledge and expertise they need to be successful in a classroom of their own.” 

“Dakota State is excited about developing this pipeline for prospective teachers,” said Dr. David De Jong, Dean of the College of Education. “These are hard-working South Dakotans who have already demonstrated skills in working with students but might otherwise never find their way to becoming classroom teachers. There is no better place to recruit our future teachers than our current classrooms in South Dakota.”

The South Dakota Teacher Placement Center Data shows 545 teacher openings in South Dakota are either unfilled or needed for next year. Over 175 of these positions are in special education or elementary education.

David De Jong shared, “The South Dakota Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway will help up to 60 South Dakotan paraprofessionals earn their teaching degree, which will help to address the shortage. We created this pathway with the help of educational leaders in Iowa, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Tennessee. We learned about the best practices from each of these programs to ensure this will work in South Dakota. It’s exciting to partner with the South Dakota Department of Education and the South Dakota Department of Labor on this important initiative for the students of our great state.”

State Labor & Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman states, “This is a great opportunity for South Dakotans to gain valuable on-the-job training and advance in their careers while continuing to earn an income and provide for their families.”


Applications for the program can be found on Our Dakota Dreams website.

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