The University of Wisconsin Gets Creative to Recruit, Train, and Retain the Next Generation of Teachers

By Christina Lorey

August 23, 2022

Long before the current nationwide shortage, universities had already reported a 35% drop in education majors from 2008-2018.

Arizona is letting college students teach children. 

Florida schools are recruiting veterans with 48 hours of active duty experience to fill empty roles. 

Several Michigan districts are offering $10,000 sign-on bonuses.

Teacher shortages had been on the rise for a decade, but the pandemic pushed many schools past their breaking point. Wisconsin is no exception, but the state’s flagship university is now offering a solution– “Teacher Pledge.”

RELATED: Next Fall, In-State Students from Low Income Families Will Be Able to Attend UW System Schools for Free

How It Works

Launched in the summer of 2020, the “Teacher Pledge” program offers financial support to future University of Wisconsin teachers.

The UW-Madison School of Education will pay the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees, testing, and licensing costs for all students who, in return, pledge to work at a Wisconsin school—pre-kindergarten to 12th grade—for three to four years after graduation. 

“Teacher Pledge” has now been extended through at least the end of the 2025-26 school year.

How Long It Takes

Students who go on to teach in high-need districts or high-need disciplines will finish the program in three years, while all others will complete it in four.

“High-need” subjects change annually, but currently include bilingual education, special education, math, and reading. “High-need” schools also change, and are defined by the US Department of Education Office of Federal Aid.

Why It’s Important

Every state in the country is currently experiencing a teacher shortage. It was already a problem pre-pandemic, then worsened by it. Primary causes include high rates of retirements among baby-boomers, declining interest in education careers among students, and high rates of teacher turnover, according to National University.

RELATED: Wisconsin Has Faced a Teacher Shortage for Years. Some Schools Are Finally Reaching Their Tipping Point.

Why It’s Working

Students currently participating in the “Teacher Pledge” program say it’s already changed their college experience, starting with college choice.

“I knew I wanted to go to a bigger university for my postgraduate education and was looking around at different programs, trying to find the best one for me,” Camryn Booms, a current master’s student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, told the Badger Herald.

If it weren’t for the UW’s program and financial support, Booms wouldn’t have been able to afford a Wisconsin education.

“When I found out about the Teacher Pledge, I knew Wisconsin was the best fit,” she said. Booms, who is from Michigan, would have had to pay out-of-state tuition—nearly double the price—if it weren’t for the Teacher Pledge.

“Knowing that I won’t have any debt from this program and that everything was very nicely set up is a big stress reliever,” Booms added. “I can ultimately go into the field of teaching and not have to worry about paying student loans.”

The program is also helping diversify classrooms, allowing first-generation students and those from lower-income families to earn their degrees, financial burden-free. 

“Representation in the classroom has a major impact on students,“ Cataggatan, an Asian-American senior, who decided to become a teacher thanks to the positive classroom experiences she had growing up, told the Badger Herald.

“But I didn’t have that representation, so I want to be that figure for my students who are either Filipino or Asian American.”

BIPOC representation isn’t just an aesthetic necessity, but an academic asset, too. A study by the Learning Policy Institute found that, in classrooms led by BIPOC teachers, BIPOC students had higher reading and math scores, as well as graduation rates.  

Click here for more information on the University of Wisconsin’s “Teacher Pledge” program.

Or here, to watch a short video.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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