The Arizona Teachers Academy, an initiative to address the state’s significant teacher shortage, more than doubled enrollment in its second year.

In the 2017-2018 academic year, there were 221 students enrolled across the three Arizona public universities. In the 2018-2019 academic year, there were 464 students enrolled, according to the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR).

“Our universities have a long and proud tradition of educating and training Arizona’s teacher workforce. Together, the universities and our community college partners are able to help meet a crucial need in our state’s schools and offer more affordable options for students who aspire to this noble profession,” ABOR Chair Ron Shoopman said in the report.

Created in 2017, the Arizona Teachers Academy (ATA) helps remove the financial burden of getting an education by waiving tuition and fees for students who agree to teach in an Arizona public school after they graduate.

Recently ABOR released its 2019 Arizona Teachers Academy annual report breaking down the progress of the program.

Arizona State University

The ASU Arizona Teachers Academy offers bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and non-degree certification programs. Students can major in early childhood, elementary, secondary, special education or arts education. Students must be Arizona residents as determined by ASU for tuition purposes to be eligible.

In 2018-2019, there were 276 students enrolled and 116 teachers completed a program of study through the Academy. 106 of those are currently teaching in a public school, according to ABOR.

ASU’s enrollment went from 146 in ‘17-’18 to 276 in ‘18-’19.

According to Carole Basile, dean of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the academy will help the college continue to complete its goal of building a richer, relevant experience for its students.

“We’re working with schools to redesign teacher preparation to work better for educators and learners. And education continues to be at the center of public discussion in Arizona,” Basile said. “If you’re considering becoming a teacher in Arizona, has there ever been a more exciting time to explore that path?”

Northern Arizona University 

NAU offers a bachelor’s, master’s and certification through its Grow Your Own partnerships and Teacher Intern Preparation Program (TIPP). These programs offer degrees and certifications in elementary education and special education while targeting teaching candidates in high-need areas and career changes

Northern Arizona University saw its enrollment more than double, going from 60 to 160.

There is no information on the number of NAU Academy graduates teaching in public schools because their program is two-years and just saw its first group of graduates.

“We found that… students had a hard time financially…We think the Teachers Academy will help with that growth and addressing the needs of the state,” NAU College of Education Dean Ramona Mellott said. “The benefits are going to continue.”

University of Arizona

Through its Academy and Mild to Moderate Disabilities program, U of A offers a one-year master’s degree with certification that prepares secondary and special education teachers.

The school also has a UA Immersive Teacher Academy that focuses on teacher shortages in secondary schools and special education classrooms by partnering with school districts and alumni to share expertise.

U of A had 15 students in ‘17-’18 and 28 in ‘18-’19.

All 28 students completed a program of study through the Arizona Teachers Academy and 14 are now teaching in an Arizona public school, according to ABOR.

“Providing funding through ATA to these students has provided them with the ability to fully engage in their studies and focus on becoming excellent teachers. The availability of ATA funding has driven a great deal of additional interest in our “career changers” programs,” the University of Arizona said in the ABOR 2018 annual report.

“Four years ago, I heard what sounded like a really good idea to address the teacher shortage. If someone graduates from an Arizona university, is willing to stay in Arizona and teach in a public school, why not allow them to graduate debt-free?” Governor Doug Ducey said during his 2019 State of the State address. “We turned it into reality…This year we plan to significantly expand it: more dollars, more support. We are going to create a pipeline of talent and the next generation of Arizona teachers.”

The fiscal year 2020 state budget dedicated $15 million to providing more quality teachers for Arizona’s classrooms through the academy. According to ABOR, with the infusion of new funding, the board expects the academy to grow by approximately 3,000 students.

“Just two years since its implementation, the Arizona Teachers Academy is making real, demonstrable progress. We appreciate and thank the governor and legislature for a dedicated funding source that will allow the universities to provide more teachers for Arizona’s classrooms,” ABOR Executive Director John Arnold said. “We all know that a great teacher can change a student’s life. It’s inspiring to think how many lives will be positively impacted by the wonderful educators graduating from the academy.”

The report also showed that:

* The number of academy graduates grew by 68% year over year, from 102 to 171;

* ABOR expects that 273 students will have completed the Academy by the end of 2018-2019; and

* During 2018-2019, 120 academy graduates were teaching in an Arizona public school.

Funds will be allocated based on the number of students enrolled in each university’s education degree programs or post-baccalaureate programs at the community colleges. ASU is projected to receive $4.9 million, NAU $4.2 million and UA $1 million. Maricopa Community Colleges will receive $909,000 and Pima Community College $630,000.

For the full report: click here.

This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.