At an important time for schools, One91 offers a pathway for passionate students to become teachers
COVID-19 provided some serious challenges for schools. With shortages across the country in a variety of positions including teachers, schools are exploring ways to find tomorrow’s education professionals and get them started on their journey today.
Thankfully, District 191 has a system in place to cultivate teachers for the district that is already working.
Matt Deutsch is an education and culinary arts teacher at Burnsville High School (BHS) who is helping to get tomorrow’s teachers ready for action via classes offered as part of the Health Sciences and Human Services career field and the Education Pathway.
“In education, we talk a lot about making education work for every student and I think the pathway model really lets students take part in that process,” says Mr. Deutsch. “Our goal is to have students leave BHS with college credits and field experience with a head start so they can complete their degrees and come back here and teach with us.”
That process can be seen in action with staff members that are teaching in District 191 schools right now.
When Olivia Brammer was a student at BHS, she was involved in a variety of activities and ready to start exploring career options. After starting some courses in the Healthcare Pathway and finding it wasn’t for her, Olivia tried education-focused courses the following year. She ended up helping at the Functional Education for Successful Transition (FEST) program in the special education department at BHS.
“I really fell in love with the program,” said Olivia. “It was so different from other classroom experiences and it made me want to pursue a career in special education.”
Olivia earned a degree in education with a minor in political science at Augsburg University, taking classes in the summer to speed the process along. After graduation, she started as a student teacher back at BHS, transitioning to an educational assistant before being hired as a special education teacher in 2021.
“It really is good to be back and to continue the great relationships from when I was a student,” said Olivia. “A huge thing in our school district is preparing students for the future and I am excited to be a part of that.”
This type of journey is exactly what the Pathways at District 191 were designed to do. Dr. Kathy Funston is the district’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and Pathways and was part of building the Pathways model and reimagining what education in the district looks like.
“The pathways are not about planning to graduate, it’s about graduating with a plan,” says Dr. Funston. “They help students to understand those directions and to plan for the future and make decisions about what kind of after high school training and education they will need in order to pursue their goals.”
For the Education Pathway, another goal is making classrooms more representative of the communities served by the district and attracting more teachers of color to work in the district.
“In order for students to really realize their full potential, they need to see models within the school that can help them understand who they are and where they can go. In our district, 4% of our educators are teachers of color, whereas we have 67% of our students who are students of color,” said Dr. Funston. “We have an Education Pathway that is intended to recruit, train, and support students of color to become teachers, to go into education programs, and then come back to our school district to do their student teaching, and then for us to be able to hire those teachers.”
One BHS student found a way to fast-track this process in a major way. Braylon Lane has spent almost all of his time in school in District 191, and he knew early on that teaching was the career for him.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher at age six but school wasn’t always a priority for me,” said Braylon. “Thankfully the Pathways program is available to everyone, because deciding to take a course as part of the Education Pathway was a turning point for me.”
Braylon enrolled in an Introduction to Education course, which was a dual enrollment course with Normandale Community College. He immediately felt he was in the right place and continued on the Education Pathway, taking college courses during the summer, and during the school year using PSEO while also serving as a student volunteer teacher, and continuing his commitments to a variety of clubs and activities.
Upon hearing about Braylon’s desire to become a teacher, Hidden Valley Elementary School Principal Kristine Black reached out with an opportunity to work full time at the school as a behavioral support assistant where he began working in 2021.
“The Pathways program at BHS really inspired me to work as an educator,” said Braylon. “This program really set the course for me to work towards my goals. It got me this job where I get to work with great students, and it allowed me to save thousands of dollars on college courses.”
Braylon will graduate from BHS with his classmates in June of 2022, and then, just two months later, will walk across the stage at Normandale Community College with an associate degree. He plans to complete his bachelor’s degree while using hybrid courses at the University of Minnesota, and will pursue his master's via online classes at Howard University.
Both Olivia and Braylon were members of the Future Teachers of America Club at BHS and are determined to keep their talents in their home district and serve students in Burnsville, Eagan, and Savage for years to come.
“I think our students who are working in these pathways have a huge advantage because they are working with mentors and other connections in the community that could lead to immediate job opportunities if that’s what they want,” says Mr. Deutsch. “Just by being part of the pathway program, students are learning tons of skills that they will need for their lives.”
The work will continue at District 191 to empower and encourage students to seek out careers in education, and the Education Pathway is showing strong results so far.