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Working on Utah’s teacher shortage by reaching into the community

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s teacher shortage could be helped through reaching out into the community around each school. Education officials hope to have more people become paraeducators, and then take the steps to become teachers.

Parents and community members who want to help their school teacher shortage often become paraeducators.

“They isolate or help those kids that are struggling. And those the teacher can’t necessarily have that time with. That’s when your para comes into play,” said Jackie Tovar, who is a paraeducator and student advocate in the special-ed department at Northwest Middle School.

Paraeducators from around the Salt Lake School District met together for some training Friday at Northwest Middle School.

The unique “Grow Your Own Educators” partnership is investing in this training. They want to remove barriers, and help the paraeducators go on to get a teaching license.

Then other community members and parents will hopefully join the pipeline.

“We want to move on and become teachers also. And we want to bring community members in to become paras. So we will have a connection to our community, and a connection to our kids and our parents,” said Tovar.

The partnership includes the University of Utah, SLCC, the Good Samaritan Foundation and the National Resource Center for Paraeducators.

Tovar says children in Title 1 schools or minority neighborhoods need to see their own race and ethnicity.

“We want them to see our faces in the teaching staff also. Teachers of color, paras of color — we think it is so important for the kids to see that they can be successful,” she said.

The leaders of the partnership say it’s also important to invest in paraeducators statewide. The Salt Lake School District recently approved a raise from $9-$11 an hour, to $15 an hour.


Related links:

Teacher compensation task force recommends $60,000 starting salary

Utah school districts raise teacher salaries again

Opinion: Want better teachers? Stop paying them all the same amount

State leaders discuss government’s role in public schools