The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) announced in a press release that the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative will launch a pilot program in spring 2023.

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The initiative is a partnership with the Professional Teaching Standards Board (PTSB), and the U.S. Department of Labor which will have three pilot school districts begin taking applications for candidates.

In July of this year, the three pilot districts were chosen, Laramie County School District #1, Teton County School District #1, and Fremont County School District #24.

Chad Auer, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in the release:

"This is an important milestone in Wyoming’s education journey," Auer said. "I have no doubt that Wyoming’s Teacher Apprenticeship initiative will make a tremendously positive contribution to our state."

The WDE will begin talking with other school districts in the fall of 2023 for apprenticeships that will be open in the spring 2024 school year.

According to a FAQ page on the WDE's website, the program will last up to three years, depending on prior experience, and the program will provide some kind of financial support for teachers that are enrolled in the program in the form of wages that increase as parts of the program are completed.

The program purports to provide higher-quality teachers to school districts to " fill positions that will be needed in the future."

The WDE also states that "the program will take one to three years to address the current teacher shortage issues due to the time required for participants to complete the apprenticeship," it doesn't provide any further detail on how Wyoming's shortage of teachers will impact the initiative.

This is especially relevant due to the issues the Natrona County School District, along with most other districts in the state and across the county, are having in getting and retaining teachers.

For the NCSD specifically, according to a staffing report in August, the district was missing dozens of classified and certified positions, and it is unclear if they've been able to fill any of those positions since then.

The program also has mentors, teachers who have at least three years of experience and are good at teaching, that help guide teachers through the program, and who receive some form of a stipend.

Mentors will be taught through an 18 months long University of Wyoming program that launched in June of this year.

It is unclear exactly how much the teachers or mentors enrolled in the apprenticeship program are paid or how much funding the WDE is allocating for the program.

The WDE and the PTSB began work on the Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship initiative in the spring of 2022.

The initiative will have a three-phased approach, with the first phase focusing on staff currently employed within the district who have an associate's degree.

The second phase will connect staff currently employed within the district that does not have an associate’s degree, as well as people outside of the district who want to become teachers.

The third phase will focus on building pathways for high school students interested in teaching.

It is unclear when the second and third phases will begin, how long they will last, or what exactly they will entail.

PTSB Executive Director Brendan O’Connor said in the release:

"The apprenticeship is an opportunity for school districts to support and grow future teachers and educators from within the school district and community," O’Connor said. "Apprentices will be mentored along the way as they complete an educator preparation program that meets PTSB licensure requirements. Apprentices will finish with more classroom experience than those in a traditional preparation program."

The program has several requirements, including that the teacher is an employee of the district, has worked in the district for at least one year, completed an application with a letter of recommendation from a district administrator, be interviewed by district personnel, complete the on-the-job learning, and obtain the Wyoming PTSB teacher certificate.

School districts can add requirements or qualifications that they consider necessary, and evaluate candidates based on the needs of individual schools.

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