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Ascension Catholic's unconventional plan to hire and retain teachers

Minnesota school develops game plan to recruit, retain teachers
Minnesota school develops game plan to recruit, retain teachers 02:18

MINNEAPOLIS — One Minnesota school thinks it has a game plan to recruit and retain teachers, as schools across the state face a teacher shortage.

For the last three years, about 10% of the teaching staff at Ascension Catholic in Minneapolis hasn't had a teaching license or degree. When they needed a new physical education teacher, administrators went to the yearbook, not the traditional hiring playbook.

They hired Noah Emmes, who graduated from Ascension in 2016. Before his teaching job, he worked the night shift at a supermarket. Since his hire, he said he's gotten a lot of support and on-the-job training.

"What have I learned? That I definitely have areas to grow, but I want to grow because I have passion for this job," he said.

In the last few years, Ascension has hired five alumni to become teachers, and some are less than a year away from getting their license.

But Ascension is a private school, meaning it runs by a different set of rules than the public school system. It still wants to be accredited, so it has to have a certain number of licensed teachers, but doesn't face the same challenges or even oversight as public schools do with the Board of Education. 

Still, public schools know about the burden of finding teachers and they also know they have to think creatively. A state report showed that 84% of school districts in Minnesota find themselves somewhat or significantly affected by a teacher shortage.

Vice President of Education Minnesota Monica Byron said schools have found success in reaching out to professionals seeking a second career.

"We've heard from scientists, we've heard from engineers," she said.

New recruits are also making sure they're heard, after lawmakers gave tier-one license holders a seat at the bargaining table. Byron says obtaining those higher licenses should still be the gold standard, and not an elusive one.

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