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One school is turning the page on the teacher shortage

Timber Ridge Elementary in Killeen is preparing student teachers for the future. Administration hopes their mentorship program will make for a positive impact.

KILLEEN, Texas — The strain of teachers across Texas isn't stopping some future teachers in Killeen from pursuing their dreams.

Student teachers from A&M Central Texas University know there will be hurdles, but they continue to keep a positive perspective.

"There's a need for teachers for a reason, so I'm glad we can fill that need for schools around Texas," A&M Central Texas student teacher, Erika Henry said.

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According to the Texas Tribune, the attrition rate for teachers in Texas has always remained around 10%. The 2021 - 2022 school year hit, and that amount rose to 12%.

The report states that teachers are leaving or not entering the work force because of health and safety concerns, along with low pay.

"They're probably seeing what a lot of teachers are seeing right now – it's a little different in the classrooms right now," A Pre-K teacher at Timber Ridge Elementary, Hollie Kreiger, said.

Teachers who leave the professions are leaving positions open that schools can't fill.

That's why Timber Ridge Elementary teamed up with A&M Central Texas University, to work with student teachers, mentor them and put them into a positive work environment.

"They start in the profession so much more confident," the Director of Field Experiences and External Partnerships at A&M Central Texas, Jamie Blassingeame, said.

The University pairs student teachers up with mentors at Timber Ridge Elementary, which Blassingeame said helps them find support when they need it.

The connections with other teachers is what Kreiger said helped her all these years.

"My team, and other teachers in the district, we just come together and support each other," Kreiger said.

That's what Kreiger hopes to do for her mentees. 

"They love being in the classroom and being with the kids," she said. "It's fun to see someone who is excited to come into the teaching profession."

She said the student teachers will get to work with different grade levels and different teachers, all while forming bonds and connections that will follow them through their careers.

This is something Blassingeame said will keep the future teachers in the profession.

Rachel Johnson, who is part of the program, understands the need for teachers right now. Johnson said she wanted to be a teacher because of her four kids, but now she realizes how many other kids need someone like her.

"If you don't have anyone helping them discover what they like, helping them discover what they can amount to, then who is going to be that driving force behind them?" Johnson said.

Johnson's student teacher colleagues understand the importance of their role as well.

"You are someone who is helping their kids, you are someone who is allowing them to grow, to learn to be better people," student teacher with A&M Central Texas University, Kyra Sowells, said.

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