Using ESSER to Strengthen Missouri’s Educator Workforce

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For decades, researchers and education leaders have explored the best ways to build and sustain a pipeline of diverse and effective educators. Teacher shortages are not a new phenomenon and unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated and further elevated this issue into the national spotlight. In Missouri, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is investing $50 million of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to attract individuals to careers in education and keep high-quality teachers in the profession.

To build and retain local talent, DESE made $10,000 grants available to local education agencies to establish or expand local grow your own (GYO) programs, in addition to grants to educator preparation programs and community colleges to strengthen the educator workforce. Missouri’s GYO programs are designed to recruit locals who return to their communities after college, build resilient educators who will stay in the profession and retain mentor teachers who inspire the next generation of teachers.

High school students enrolled in Carma Richey’s Teacher Academy, a GYO program at the Raymore-Peculiar School District’s LEAD Center in Raymore, Missouri, receive 350 hours of classroom experience with a mentor teacher before their high school graduation. The Teacher Academy has more than tripled its enrollment from six to 20 students in one year, and 67% of academy participants say they want to come back and teach in the district after college.

In Kansas City, Missouri, Kayley Pak, an alumna of the Park Hill School District GYO program, is now a second grade teacher at Renner Elementary. Pak credits her high school’s Aspiring Educators program with inspiring her to become a teacher and earn dual credit with Northwest Missouri State University while building the skills and confidence to be an effective teacher. Park Hill’s Aspiring Educators program is using its ESSER-funded grant to provide three scholarships to diverse high school students pursuing their education degrees with plans to come back to the district.

At CCSSO’s 2023 Legislative Conference in March, Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven and those two teachers, Richey and Pak, shared the impact of the state’s GYO initiative and illustrated how the state is using ESSER relief funding to build diverse pathways to the teaching profession.


We were seeing in the midst of the pandemic at least half of our teachers leaving before year six. … So, when we got the opportunity to invest, the very, very, very first big decision we made at the state level with the funding that we received was: Let's invest in our teachers — $50 million in grant products so that we would really focus on the grow your own that you're going to hear about today. … We've gone from about 15% of our districts (offering) grow your own to about 85%. So significant growth there.

– Margie Vandeven, Missouri commissioner and CCSSO Board of Directors president-elect



We had identified that there were a large number of alumni already teaching in our district, so we decided that we needed to have a program that would kind of identify them when they were high school students and then build those supports around them and help them be successful when they eventually came back to teach with us. So we created the Teacher Academy, which is a grow your own.” – Carma Richey, teacher, Raymore-Peculiar School District.

“When I was in high school, I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew that I wanted to stay in my community. I knew I wanted to be somewhere in a school building. And so when I joined Aspiring Educators, I didn't know I wanted to be a teacher. I got to experience some time with a counselor, got to intern with a social worker. It wasn't until I walked into a fourth-grade classroom when I finally found my passion, my spark.” Kayley Pak, teacher, Park Hill School District.

Watch the full video recording here, and read more about Missouri’s GYO and other teacher workforce efforts in CCSSO’s new Road to Recovery report, How States are Using ESSER Funds to Support Teacher Recruitment and Retention and learn more in this webinar.

Featured Resources from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

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