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School leaders are struggling to fill each classroom with a qualified teacher. However, a provision created to help was included in the budget Gov. Scott Walker signed Sept. 21.

The new legislation allows alternative teacher certification programs to provide qualified individuals with a path to teacher certification and ultimately state licensure.

One such program is American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, a national nonprofit created by the U.S. Department of Education. American Board recruits career changers with years of real-world experience who already live in communities suffering from the teacher shortage. This approach helps districts hire local educators instead of relying on outsiders to move to the area.

“I was working as an insurance agent and was unhappy with my job. I knew I wanted to become a teacher, but education programs are designed for 20-year-olds that live at home or on campus,” said Birdie Pruessner, an American Board alum. “I would substitute teach on my vacation days and that’s when I learned about American Board. It really changed the trajectory of my life. I would not have gone back and done another undergrad degree. I could not wrap my mind around going back after getting my business degree.”

Principals report American Board certified teachers perform better than or equivalent to traditionally trained teachers across 95 percent of 20 teacher qualities measured, according to a recent Drexel University study.

Drexel University concluded American Board teachers are “largely comparable to or stronger than traditionally prepared teachers. It is clear that American Board prepared teachers are well-prepared to meet the needs of 21st-century learners.”

Meanwhile, enrollment in traditional educator licensing programs for Wisconsin experienced a 30 percent drop from 2010 to 2015. Now, school districts throughout Wisconsin are struggling to fill at least 46 percent of teaching positions throughout the state, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

The nonprofit looks forward to working with Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction on how to best serve and prepare future teachers throughout the state.

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