State’s teacher shortage is at ‘critical stage’

BISMARCK, ND — The Indian Professional Development Program, a division of the federal Education Department, awarded the University of Mary in partnership with Turtle Mountain Community College, $981,075 towards improving education of Native American students and promoting high-quality educators to teach in tribal-run schools.

Dr. Carmelita Lamb

Dr. Carmelita Lamb

Dr. Carmelita Lamb, associate dean of University of Mary’s Liffrig Family School of Education and Behavioral Sciences, and a team of university grant writers, spearheaded the proposal. Lamb says the money is allotted over four years beginning this fall semester.

“The award will fund Native American students in a K-12 bachelor’s degree teacher education program at Turtle Mountain Community College and a master’s degree from the University of Mary in Elementary Administration, Secondary Administration, and Special Education,” said Lamb. “The overall goal is to support education in tribal communities and take the lead in supporting advanced degrees in education leadership. This grant award represents the mission of the University of Mary in servant leadership and community outreach.”

Lamb says the University of Mary has currently opened the application process to graduate students interested in receiving the scholarship dollars. Following a rigorous selection process, seven graduate level students will be awarded money to fund tuition, books, fees and computer technology in those three programs beginning in January 2017. All of those students seeking a master’s degree will be able to receive the courses online allowing them to maintain current employment in their community where they serve Native American children.

“Our vision of a successful student is one who discovers a passion for learning and transforming their world, while maintaining the student’s unique tribal culture, identity and language,” stated Lamb. “The need across our state for teachers right now is great and especially on Indian reservations.”

The North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board declared the entire state a “Critical Shortage Area” in 2015-2016, due to severe teacher shortages in all content or degree areas. The state school superintendent reported that 204 teacher openings around North Dakota were unfilled in January 2016, an increase of 55 percent from the same time last year, and the highest number in ten years. In addition to current shortages, it is anticipated that the need for teachers and administrators will grow in the future due to the aging of the workforce and the effect of retirements. The North Dakota Teachers’ Fund for Retirement projects that 3,000-3,400 out of the state total of 10,000 teachers will retire it the next 10 years, along with about 90 administrators. At the same time, K-12 public school enrollment has increased by about 10,000 in the past five years, with enrollment of about 104,000 students last fall, reflecting the state’s population growth driven largely by oil and gas development.

The University of Mary in Bismarck is one of only 20 recipients nationwide to receive the federal grant and was awarded the second largest amount.

For more information or to apply for the graduate programs please contact Dr. Carmelita Lamb at (701) 355-8186 or