NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As schools across the Kansas City area continue to search for ways to fill open teaching positions, one local school district said it’s found a creative way to grow its own teacher pool.

The North Kansas City School District has been cultivating the Grow Your Own program for about five years.

Now, with a teacher shortage across the country, it’s paying off. They’ve hired their first teachers out of the program.

The district said the program is designed to attract future teachers and partnerships with local colleges and universities allow students to graduate with limited debt.

Samara McKellar is one of the first teachers hired through North Kansas City’s program. She’s currently at Ravenwood Elementary teaching third grade.

“It’s like a dream,” McKellar said.

Since high school, McKellar knew she wanted to teach. Grow Your Own helped make that a reality through mentorship and free tuition.

“The program gave me a lot of guidance and a lot of support and that meant a lot to me,” McKellar said, “because those are the same things that I felt when I was a student in the NKC School District.”

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Students like McKellar, who have earned Missouri’s A+ Scholarship, receive free tuition at several local colleges and universities.

“So I’m very, very thankful that I was able to get those 60 credit hours for free,” McKellar said.

“That allows students to graduate certainly with less debt,” North Kansas City School District’s Executive Director of HR Chris McKann said.

He said right now, they still have 15-20 open teaching positions, but creative programs like this make a difference.

“This is helping,” McKann said. “So it’s another program that we have to make sure that we have another high quality workforce.”

He said it’s a creative approach to growing their own teacher pool.

Mentoring and opportunities to take classes start as early as sophomore year of high school. Upon graduation of college, participant teach at least three years in the district.

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