CONWAY, Ark. – A conference Tuesday held at the University of Central Arkansas brought together the educators of tomorrow, teaching them the skills they need to succeed and instilling a passion to make a difference.

The goal of the Educators Rising conference was to bring together those who already have a love of teaching and set them up for success by day one. The hope is by fostering these students on a path to the classroom, the days of statewide teacher shortages will soon be over.

Educators Rising has chapters starting in middle school and stretching up to professional teachers. Through conferences, competitions, and training, future teachers and those already in the classroom build engagement, passion, and diversity to better serve their communities.

Those thinking about teaching are also encouraged to stick with it, with pathways and career counsels set up to help guarantee students graduate with the degree they want, preferably in education.

For Watson Chapel Junior Keiren Minter, the conference is not only a way to learn new skills, but to also explore career opportunities and collegiate programs that will help him fulfill a lifelong dream.

“I’ve always wanted to become an educator since the third grade,” said Minter. “It all starts with the teacher.”

Minter’s not the only one who wants to see success; with a multi-year shortage in teachers across the state, Arkansas educators would like to see a few extra passionate teachers in schools, as well.

“The goal for today is to make sure that we help fill the teacher pipeline,” explained Raven Harris, the Educators Rising coordinator for Arkansas. “We want to help to build those bridges over those gaps.”

Between the 2018/2019 school year and the 2019/2020 school year, Arkansas gained only a net total of 5 certified teachers across the state. For local school districts, that turned into a loss – LRSD lost 40 certified teachers and PCSSD lost 17. With a lingering shortage years later, educators young and old hope efforts like this will help fill the gap.

For Minter, the pandemic only strengthened his desire to become an educator after seeing the dedication of his teachers during a difficult few years.

“It made me want to become an educator even more,” he said. “When a teacher tells you something, it can stick with you for the rest of your life.”

In addition to organizations like Educators Rising, the Arkansas Department of Education has launched a new website geared toward helping potential educators find their best path to the workplace.

More information can be found at the Teach Arkansas website.