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Omaha Public Schools Partners with UNO on Teacher Development, Retention Projects

River Magisana can hardly wait to explore literature with students. Soon, he’ll become an English Language Arts teacher for Omaha Public Schools.

The Benson High graduate studies education at the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO). Though he was confident in his career choice, he wasn’t as sure about how to achieve it. That changed when he earned a spot in the Teacher Scholar Academy (TSA), an innovative partnership between Omaha Public Schools and UNO.
“If the Teacher Scholar Academy didn’t exist, I would not be a teacher. It’s been a monumental help in affording college,” said Magisana.
Each group in the Teacher Scholar Academy includes 25 students who receive full scholarships. It covers room and board, books and fees. After their college graduation, members of Magisana’s class will join Omaha Public Schools full-time.
“Getting a degree is very important to me to complete the cycle that my parents weren’t able to,” he said. “Without the support that the Teacher Scholar Academy provides, I would probably be doing something completely different.”
Funding from Omaha Public Schools supports the Teacher Scholar Academy and three other initiatives at UNO. The programs create more pathways into teaching and expand professional development for current educators. The $14.8 million grant provides:

  • Teacher Advanced Academics Graduate Program: Up to 18 hours of graduate courses for qualifying high school teachers. Investment in this partnership builds Omaha Public Schools capacity to teach dual enrollment courses. Dual enrollment earns students college credit while still in high school.
  • Accelerating Teacher Learning: Up to 1,000 teachers will receive up to nine graduate credit hours of instruction. Investment in this partnership aligns with Strategic Plan of Action initiatives.
  • Teacher Scholar Academy Program: Funds a group of high-achieving students seeking to obtain teacher certification and promotes teacher development in hard-to-fill areas. This ongoing initiative will recruit, diversify and retain a high-quality roster of educators.
  • Teacher Academy Project: Supports secondary education certification for people who earned a bachelor’s degree and aspire to become a teacher. This increases certifications in high-demand areas, including math, science and language.

“The collaboration between Omaha Public Schools and UNO is a commitment to Omaha’s young learners by providing solutions to the staffing challenges nationwide,” said Superintendent Cheryl Logan, Ed.D. “With UNO on our side and at our side, our district will continue to lead the way with teacher development.”
UNO Chancellor Joanne Li, Ph.D., described the initiatives as an opportunity to create a sustainable solution for the ongoing challenge.

“The teacher shortage is a real problem and will require thinking outside of the box to solve it,” said Dr. Li. “We’re not here to save the world by tomorrow, but we have to take the first step.”
A step that has future educators, like Magisana, on track to make a difference in education soon.
“Education is something that shapes a student’s life, and I feel like we need to start teaching it as such,” he says. “Which is why I'm glad that programs like the Teacher Scholar Academy exist and we’re finally able to put the emphasis on how important teaching is.”