Unique program at George Fox University helping rural Oregon meet teacher shortage

January 10, 2023

Redmond School District Classroom

Schools in rural Oregon have long been challenged to find and keep qualified teachers. Teacher recruitment is difficult because potential teachers who live in rural areas have struggled with the accessibility, cost, and time it would take to complete a teacher licensing program. Many don’t have the ability to leave their jobs and communities to pursue the education required to help fill the current need.

George Fox University’s elementary education degree completion program has led the way in helping prepare teachers to meet the needs of our rural school districts. For more than seven years, George Fox has partnered with a handful of school districts to find ways to combat the teacher shortage. Together they have designed an accelerated program that allows students to earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree online with a teaching license in 16 or 20 months. On top of that, they have partnered with school districts to pair student teachers with paid positions, allowing them to work in their community while earning their degree. 

More than ⅓ of teachers at Warm Springs Reservation school are George Fox graduates

One partnership that has led to the hiring of more than a dozen teachers is the one between George Fox and Warm Springs K-8 Academy. The school is on the Warm Springs Reservation in Jefferson County. Out of the 40 teachers on staff, 14 of them are George Fox graduates with teaching licenses. That number includes Kayla Kneeland, a special education teacher. The program has made it possible for Kneeland, who was born and raised on the reservation, to teach in the community she loves.

“Being able to relate to students and their community and culture is huge. It helps instill confidence,” says Kneeland.

Roughly 40 miles south of Warm Springs is Hugh Hartman Elementary School in Redmond. Administrators there have launched a dual language program and have identified bilingual speakers in their community who want to become teachers. Many are working adults, single parents, and first generation high school graduates. George Fox is working closely with the school district to provide the support needed for those individuals to get through the licensing program and get lined up with a teaching job.

George Fox continues to build relationships with school districts across the state to see what their needs are and find ways to fill them. One desperate need is for teachers in secondary education. George Fox has a proposal under review to expand the program to include licensing for middle school and high school teachers. The idea is to bring a college education to the person who dreams of becoming a teacher and making an impact in their home communities where they are needed most.