UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

College of Education plants seeds for future educators

High school students learn about education professions at UND’s Seeing Education in Action event

crowd at event
A crowd of regional high school students filled the foyer and bottom floor of the Education building to chat with UND faculty. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

In the fall of 2022, the UND College of Education & Human Development (CEHD) established the Office of Teacher Recruitment and Retention (OTRR) to address an ongoing teacher shortage in North Dakota. Since the office’s inception, CEHD educators have tackled the problem directly, reaching out to teachers and students around the region.

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, OTRR held its first Seeing Education in Action (SEA OTRR) event. The two-hour event, a continuation of OTRR’s spring programming, invited nearly 100 high school students from North Dakota and Minnesota to tour UND’s campus and give them a chance to talk to CEHD faculty about the college’s programs.

Monte Gaukler, outreach specialist at CEHD, said that SEA OTRR is an event integral to the program’s mission. The shortage has taken a major toll on educators in the region, Gaukler said, so sparking the interest of future college students is an important step toward supporting the current workforce and reinvigorating school systems.

Seated in the Memorial Union ballroom, the students were introduced to current CEHD students, faculty and staff who gave an overview of the importance of educators and their role as developers of bright young minds. Provost Eric Link was the first to speak, offering his perspective on the value of teachers.

“The idea that we can learn things and pass that knowledge down to others, grow in our knowledge and build great things is magical,” Link said. “What happens in the classroom is something that can’t be duplicated in really any other environment.”

Assistant professor Cindy Gregg talks with a student during the event. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

Following the speeches, the nearly 100 students from around the region were introduced to their guides for the day: current students in CEHD’s programs.

Gaukler said that it was important to the OTRR team to have prospective Hawks see UND’s campus from the vantage point of current students. If they want to give high school students a realistic view of life on campus, Gaukler said, there are no better guides than current students.

“Our current students are going to have a more accurate perspective on what it’s like to live and learn at UND,” said Gaukler. “I think it’s important to show them UND from a student’s vantage point.”

The prospective students were given a tour of campus by the current CEHD students, who walked them over to Wilkerson Commons to get a tour of UND’s student living facilities. After this, they were escorted to the Education Building, where they met University faculty and staff from departments across campus.

The bottom floor and foyer of the Education Building were lined with UND faculty and staff, ready to introduce the students to UNDs degrees, programs and extracurricular activities. The areas buzzed with excitement as the high school students connected with faculty.

One CEHD faculty member, Grace Keengwe, showcased the college’s early childhood education curriculum. This program covers a diverse area, preparing students for teaching and education careers ranging from pre-K to third grade.

Keengwe was delighted by the strong interest students showed in her topic, and the fact that many of the students have a head start.

“I got to talk to a lot of students already doing childcare and are taking courses from the high school to prepare for working in the field,” Keengwe said. “I was amazed. It felt so good to see all of that interest.”

Gaukler said the key to SEA OTRR was offering students facetime with faculty members they’d be working with if they come to UND.

“Prospective students don’t always get access to faculty,” said Gaukler. “We’re fortunate to be able to introduce students to our faculty, and I think that helps them feel welcomed. We’re really trying to plant a seed and give them a view of the UND experience.”

richard hoberg
Graduate researcher Richard Hoberg explained UND’s learning gardens to visiting students. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

Speaking of planting seeds, Richard Hoberg, a graduate researcher and teaching assistant at CEHD, said was there to show students some of the supplemental learning experiences in Education curriculum. For example, Gro.UND — CEHD’s learning gardens — offers student a unique educational experience.

“People don’t think of necessarily outdoor education when they think of becoming teachers, but there are a lot of possibilities for educators to use our learning gardens to teach,” Hoberg said. “We want to show students that they can can get outside of the classroom and learn in an environment that’s not typically offered by standard curriculum.”

Hoberg was excited to see so many potential future educators at the day’s event.

“I think it’s great that we’re able to put our best foot forward with young students who are new to the idea of teaching,” he said. “It’s given us a great chance to show the variety of opportunities there are at the college.”

As the day wound down, prospective students trekked back to Memorial Union, where they listened to a panel of CEHD students who discussed their experiences at UND. Gaukler said that this was the final piece of OTRR’s mission to engage prospective students, showing them that university life extends past academic involvement.

A panel of CEHD students talked about their UND involvement outside of the classroom. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

“We wanted to make sure that we addressed some of the ways UND offers a chance to develop the whole student experience,” she said. “Student organizations are going to fulfill that. It’s where a lot of students make friends and find a place on campus. We were trying to show what the experience is like for the whole student, not just the academic side.”

Gaukler said that CEHD plans to hold another SEA OTRR event in February after receiving interest from schools who could not attend this fall’s event.