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State Board of Education hopes non-traditional hiring will help with teacher shortage

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah is under a teacher shortage, according to the State Board of Education, and the data shows two out of five teachers leave the field within five years.

In order to find more classroom leaders, the state wants to start hiring those who don't come from a traditional teaching background.

"College graduates out there who, for whatever reason, want to come in and be teachers and we have heard from them in droves," said Leslie Castle, who is on the Utah State Board of Education. "Architects, engineers, retired college professors, retired physicians, retired nurses, who want to come and be teachers and there is not a license that allows them to do that that is reasonable."

So the state is making it easier for them to get into the classroom by adopting the Academic Pathway to Teaching policy.

"This is a pathway to a teacher license that is not affiliated with a university," Castle said.

In order to become a teacher under this policy, you must have a bachelor's degree, pass an ethics exam, take a test to prove you are proficient in your area of expertise, and pass a background check.

The Granite School District doesn't believe this is the answer to the teacher shortage. They've already been hiring non-traditional teachers. Nearly half of them quit within three years.

"They know their content, but being a teacher is more than just about having their content mastered," said Ben Horsley, a spokesperson with the Granite School District.

The school district questions the motives behind some of these want-to-be teachers.

"Sometimes it's a last-ditch option," Horsley said. "They haven't been able to get a job in their career or industry of choice, and they kind of use teaching as a fall back, and, frankly, individuals like that usually don't make very good teachers because their heart's not in it."

The state says districts are by no means required to hire non-traditional teachers, but they hope they at least give it a try.

"They go to college, they fall in love with a science, or a study, and they go, 'I want to teach this,' I don't think that's fall back," Castle said.

This new policy is scheduled to officially go into effect this August.