For a little more than five years, Lorina Kegler has worked at STEM Prep Schools as an instructional aide.

What You Need To Know

  • A local network of three charter public schools has decided to create its own teacher pipeline to address the current teacher shortage

  • STEM Prep Schools in South LA is investing $1.6 million in the next five years to pay for its own non-teaching employees to get degrees and credentials

  • Administrators say the schools lost 20 teachers amid the pandemic, but are already paying to train another 20 to fill those vacancies

  • They hope to inspire other charter schools and districts to invest in their own communities

Kegler recently filled in on a recent Friday, teaching a first grade class about the rainforest.

"Anywhere from K-2nd is like my strong suit, my comfort level," she said.

But Kegler's ultimate goal is to become an elementary school teacher, a dream that’s always been out of reach for financial reasons.

"It can cost anywhere from $20,000-$25,000 and it was completely funded through STEM Prep," she said.

STEM Prep Schools Founder and CEO Emilio Pack says the teacher pipeline has been disappearing. They lost 20 teachers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead of hiring from out of state, Pack says they’re looking at their own employees and pay for them to become teachers.

"Completely shocked, and I was so excited because otherwise I really wouldn’t have been able to afford it," Kegler said.

"We decided to invest within our own system with our classified staff, with our employees who do not yet have a bachelor’s degree, do not yet have a credential, and we wanted to take away a hurdle that might be preventing them from accessing that dream job," Pack said.

Over the next 5 years, the STEM Prep network in South Los Angeles plans to invest $1.6 million to pay for college degrees and teacher credentialing.

"We have great partners with Alder Education, Marshall Street Residency Program, Loyola Marymount University and our B.A. with the Rivet School, and those partners make it accessible," Pack said. "It’s one of the most fulfilling parts of my job, to come up to someone who’s dreamt of being a teacher and say, 'Look, we’re going to pay for it. You just have to commit to your dream.'"

Kegler already has a B.A. in English and will graduate with her teaching credential in June. And starting this fall, she’ll officially have her own first- or second-grade class.

"Really being able to help mold them and help guide them, to being able to produce from coming in not knowing how to spell words or letters, and then they’re writing full sentences, it’s just an amazing thing," Kegler said.

STEM Prep leaders say that when a school is made up entirely of students of color, having a teaching staff who reflects them is more important than ever.

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