NMU working to bring rural school districts together

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Northern Michigan University has received a $600,000 'Step Up' grant through the Michigan Department of Education. It's supported by the Upper Peninsula Center for Educational Development and individual school districts.

The grant is designed to provide training for first-year teachers and career-changers, or those who may not have teaching credentials yet but are working to get them.

"One of the things we've been really resisting up here is putting people into teaching positions or working with children without any support," said Joe Lubig, Associate Dean of Northern Michigan University's School of Education, Leadership and Public Service.

The program started January of 2018 and 12 rural school districts are participating. Northern Michigan University's is the only university recipient of a rural grant and participants take upward of 10 online credit hours in addition to their regular work loads.

"Getting and retaining teachers in those settings is becoming more and more difficult," said Lubig.

The goal is to assist schools in recruiting and retaining those who can lead secondary classrooms in English, mathematics, social studies and science.

"I hope that we can develop a program to help future first-year teachers in rural school districts and help them receive the guidance and mentorship that they need during that complicated time entering a new career field," said Marcus Cellelo, a participant in the program and a first-year High School English Teacher at Forest Park School District.

Participants like Cellelo partner with a mentor to work collaboratively on perfecting their teaching styles.

"Right now at this time we all really need to work together and pool our resources and just lift each other up," said Anna Martell, a mentor in the program and a Secondary English Teacher for grades 10 through 12 at North Central Area Schools.

The grant cycle is projected to wrap up in winter 2018, but through a collaboration with NMU's Global Campus, they were able to pull $100,000 from the initial grant to extend the program for another year.