UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

UND’s Office of Teacher Recruitment and Retention open for business

New office stands ready to address state, national teacher shortages 

UND archival photo.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Several months after announcing the launch of a new Office of Teacher Recruitment and Retention to address teacher shortages throughout the state and nationwide, UND’s College of Education & Human Development now has turned that ambitious idea into a reality.

Key personnel for the new Office of Teacher Recruitment and Retention include new Director Ashley Smalley, a former West Fargo middle school teacher who is nearing completion of a doctorate in educational leadership from UND, as well as new Outreach Specialist Monte Gaukler, a former Grand Forks teacher and UND adjunct professor.

“Our teachers are being asked to play more roles than ever, while they face unprecedented challenges from school districts, communities and state and federal governments,” said Smalley. “They feel unsupported, unappreciated and mentally and physically overwhelmed. Solving the problem of keeping educators in the profession, and inspiring future educators, will require systemic changes and reforms.

“Teachers are the heart of our schools, so we have to make positive changes for them and for our children.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, teacher shortages in North Dakota span many areas, including early childhood and elementary education, math, social studies and health and physical fitness. Declining enrollment in teacher education programs and the COVID-19 pandemic have both contributed to the current crisis.

Smalley and OTRR want to see that trend reversed. Per OTRR’s Mission Statement, the office strives to “increase diversity and total numbers of students enrolling in teacher preparation programs … to [put] time and energy into preparing more new teachers for our community … [and] to improve early career support, promote growth opportunities, collaborate with all education stakeholders, and work to keep highly qualified teachers in our schools.”

Per its stated goals, OTRR wishes to:

• Slow or reverse the downward enrollment trend in teacher education programs
• Provide support to current teachers and actively address underlying causes of teacher stress and dissatisfaction
• Establish more resources for children across the state through rural summer camps in reading and STEM
• Introduce new opportunities for training to recruit new students interested in educational careers

OTRR plans to share upcoming initiatives and new developments via the office’s website. Office inquiries can be directed to Ashley Smalley at 701.777.6095.