The Learning Curve

News and updates from the College of Education and Human Development .

Recruiting Rural STEM Teachers

The following article appeared in the Jan. 30, 2023 edition of the News and Notes newsletter of the North Dakota Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ND EPSCoR).

Stock image of a STEM teacher with eager students.

North Dakota, along with many other states, struggles to find teachers, especially those with science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) backgrounds. At their March 2022 meeting, the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board declared all content areas as having a critical shortage for the 2022-2023 school year. For smaller or rural schools, the issue is more severe since they may receive fewer applications than they have openings1.

Ryan Summers, Associate Professor of Science Education and Secondary Education Program Coordinator at UND, coordinates the Rural Student Teaching Experience (RSTE) program for the ND-ACES project. The program’s goal is to provide an exceptional learning experience for teacher candidates in rural schools, while they complete their undergraduate programs.

“The experience of teaching in a smaller or rural school is very different than what a teacher might experience in a larger setting,” Summers said. “But school districts are becoming more innovative in their recruiting efforts, and the RSTE program is one more avenue of support for them.” The two students who will be participating in the RSTE program for the spring 2023 semester are from Mayville State and VCSU. Each will receive a stipend of up to $10,000 during the program and receive mentorship throughout the semester.

Dr. Ryan Summers
Dr. Ryan Summers.

“School districts are continuing to be more creative in their efforts to recruit teachers,” Summers said. “A recent DSU graduate, Adrianna Sokolofsky, was an RSTE intern in Watford City and, thanks to the efforts of both DSU and Watford City Public Schools, she was able to transition to a full-time teaching role once her internship was completed.”

Jeri Braunagel, DSU Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Field Experience in Education, noted that DSU was “very eager to coordinate with McKenzie County School District in Watford City to secure a student teaching placement for Adrianna.” DSU has been instrumental in looking for ways to address the teacher education shortage in area schools, and this opportunity aligned well with ND ESPCoR’s mission. Indeed, there is a close alignment as the State Board of Higher Education currently lists K-12 teaching as a high priority for workforce development2.

Watford City High School Principal Jim Green was also innovative in recruiting a much-needed teacher. “Watford City High School was very lucky to find a studentteaching candidate willing to take on a non-traditional student-teaching placement,” Green said. “This arrangement allowed us to see Adrianna in action and gave her an opportunity to move directly into employment after completing her student teaching. With a national teacher shortage and extreme difficulty finding math teachers, this was an excellent option for our school and one we may need to explore using again in the future.”

Summers said that Watford City is not the only school district exploring nontraditional recruiting efforts. Some districts have a sign-on bonus, housing arrangements, or use alternative access pathways to fill their positions, and Summers said he expects to see many districts using non-traditional methods to fill their teaching roles. The RSTE program is a much-needed support for rural schools.

Applications for teacher candidates to be in the RSTE for Fall 2023 internships are currently available on the ND EPSCoR website.


  1. North Dakota Teacher Shortage Presentation.pdf

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