Hickman Mills partners to ‘grow its own’ teachers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As schools face a growing shortage of teachers, a small group of students in Hickman Mills is exploring careers in education through a unique partnership with Avila University.

At Ruskin High School, administrators believe their success depends on "growing their own" teachers.

High schoolers who are interested in teaching are getting college credit to learn what leading a classroom is like, in hopes that will further their desire to teach.

The Hickman Mills school district pays the tuition costs for eight students in the class and Avila University provides the books, making the program free for students.

There is a desperate need for teachers of color in the urban core, and the goal of the effort is to have some of the students come back as certified teachers for Hickman Mills.

"We hope those students bring their perspective back to the classroom as former members of the community and former students in our schools they can come and really connect with our kids," said Casey Klapmeyer, associate superintendent.

Students also will get the opportunity to work as teaching assistants in some of the district's classrooms.

Those enrolled like the idea of returning to serve their community and some say having similar backgrounds and experiences to the children they serve can help establish relationships that will help kids be successful learners.

"That was my number one goal when I heard about this program, I really want to come back and teach here," said Alawnna Duncan, a senior.

"My aunt taught here a couple years ago, she was a special ed teacher. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else."

Administrators say they hope to recruit corporate sponsors who will pay for the students' college education at Avila if they return as teachers to serve the district.