MONETT, Mo. — A local university is being awarded $70,000 to help tackle the teacher shortage in southwest Missouri.

“Monett would love their students to come here, get their education, and then come back and be a Monett teacher,” said Dr. Natalie Precise, Dean of Drury’s School of Education and Child Development.

That goal is now one step closer to becoming a reality, and it’s thanks to a $70,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education or DESE.

“Here in Missouri, we are really seeing a need for teachers, a need for subs. You probably see the ads everywhere for bus drivers, substitutes, all of it, so that’s where these grants actually come from, that initiative of we need more teachers in the pipeline,” said Dr. Precise.

Drury University’s campus in Monett will now be offering 12 $5,000 scholarships to high school students in Monett interested in pursuing a degree in elementary education as part of its Grow Your Own teacher program.

“Specifically for this grant, we’re looking at people who would be ready to start in the Spring, Summer, or Fall of 2024. So, seniors, if they are out there and interested in education and want to stick right here in Monett, those are the students we need.”

“We’ve been working together to help some of our students stay in Monett and go to school here to become educators,” said Dr. Melissa Huff, Monett Schools Assistant Superintendent.

Dr. Precise believes the teacher shortage in southwest Missouri is, in large part, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We lost a lot of teachers during that time. They sought other careers, everyone was just kind of up in the air with what we needed to do for education at that point. Some students went online and stayed online. Also, just the stress and demands teachers are under, it’s a lot,” said Dr. Precise.

The application process opens in the spring.