Missouri is dealing with a shortage of teachers as the new school year gets underway.

Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), is hoping to recruit new educators to the workforce. To address the shortage, DESE wants prospective teachers to visit TeachMO.org, an online recruitment platform that provides free resources.

“Some links there that you can click on where you can search teaching programs,” said Katnik. “You can click another link and learn about financial aid. You can talk to a coach. We have some Missouri teachers who will do one-to-one coaching. If you’re a high school student you said maybe I want to teach, I don’t know, you jump on here and you get on the phone with a teacher in Missouri and they say let me tell you what it’s like to be a teacher.”

Katnik said it’s important that minimum standards are met, and that people are ready to be a teacher.

“The thing we want to get right is balancing between making it as easy for folks as we can and, at the same time, making sure that people are ready to be a teacher,” according to Katnik. “It’s a very challenging job, I did it for a lot of years, myself. I would even say it’s not a job for everybody. There’s certain people that can do this and do it well and there’s other people that it would be a very difficult job for. So, we want to make sure that we’re sending people who are ready.”

Amidst Missouri’s ongoing K-12 teacher shortage, Katnik said that DESE has made it easier to become a teacher without putting someone in place who is not prepared.

“Every time I bring one of these ideas to our state board of education, they ask me, ‘Are you doing this to make it easier to be a teacher and bringing in people who aren’t ready for the job?’ And I always promise them, we wouldn’t bring you any change or idea if it would sacrifice the quality of what’s going to standing in the classroom in front of students,” said Katnik.

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