Campus News

Provost IMPACT Award addresses teacher shortage 

UK students helped mentor students in the Frederick Douglass High School Teaching and Learning Pathway last fall. With the upcoming launch of the Wildcat Teacher program, students at partner schools will have new pathways to teacher certification.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 2, 2024) — The Institutional Multidisciplinary Paradigm to Accelerate Collaboration and Transformation (IMPACT) Awards were launched in 2023 to champion the necessary and groundbreaking work done by University of Kentucky faculty and other campus community members. 

The inaugural IMPACT Awards total more than $600,000 — with a particular emphasis on proposals that are transdisciplinary, innovative and aligned with some aspect of The UK-PURPOSE, the UK Strategic Plan. 

In 2024, IMPACT will continue to fund projects similarly aimed at supporting the university to continue leading in teaching, research, service and care.   

This spring, UKNow is highlighting the 2023 IMPACT Award projects and the faculty who are leading them. Today, we learn more about the “Wildcat Teacher” program, led by faculty in the UK College of Education, which addresses the teacher shortage — a challenge felt both across the state and nationally. 
Wildcat Teacher will create new pathways to teacher certification by transforming and building upon existing educator preparation models at UK. These new pathways will accelerate students’ ability to begin working full-time in districts – helping fill schools’ open positions. Plus, they will provide teacher candidates the chance to earn income and benefits faster than the traditional timeline to complete a teacher preparation program. 

The first Wildcat Teacher pathway to launch will be an apprenticeship for high school students interested in teaching. Students will complete coursework and gain experience teaching -- while still in high school -- through a partnership between the university and school districts.   

The College of Education, as leader of the educator preparation unit at the university, is working with school districts to develop the Wildcat Teacher program to meet the critical needs of communities and catalyze change for the next generation of K-12 learners. The colleges of Arts & Sciences, Fine Arts, and Agriculture, Food and Environment are collaborating as well with their educator preparation programs, and additional pedagogical content knowledge and skills related to their respective disciplines.  

The program will advance UK’s mission and strategic plan by attracting a broad and diverse range of aspiring teachers dedicated to providing high quality instructional experiences for K-12 learners. 

Learn more about the Wildcat Teacher from Margaret Mohr-Schroeder, Ph.D., UK College of Education Senior Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Partnerships and a professor of STEM Education. 

How has the IMPACT award inspired program innovation at UK? 

We’ve been looking to move forward with residency and apprenticeship programs for educator preparation for a while. When the IMPACT award calls came out, this felt like a natural fit to really help push ourselves forward. We are used to working alongside school districts for educator preparation, but this will bring a new dimension. There’s a collaborative learning aspect of figuring out how to meet the needs of both school districts and future teachers. We will work together to figure out what classes need to be offered, when, and on what day. We are looking forward to creating opportunities for teacher apprentices to meet the requirements for their degree and certification. 

What positive impact will your program have on Kentucky and beyond?  

There is a strong need for teachers in Kentucky and we know that our UK graduates are highly sought after. Teacher turnover in Kentucky continues to dramatically increase (over 15% now) and recruitment into the profession continues to be challenging. Part of the challenge is the expense of becoming a teacher and the historic unpaid labor teacher candidates are expected to complete prior to becoming a teacher. Through residency and apprenticeship programs, such as the proposed Wildcat Teacher, we can pair our already-existing high-quality programs with districts who are investing in additional resources for their students and classrooms, resulting in a rich, hands-on, experiential, paid opportunity to learn and grow as a rising classroom teacher. 

How did you decide on this program model?  

While teacher residency programs have been around for quite a number of years, apprenticeship models are new to Kentucky and recently recognized as an official apprenticeship pathway at the federal level. This opens up a lot of additional opportunities for our young people in high school wanting to become a teacher. Our faculty and programs feel strongly that ensuring a strong foundation in teacher preparation, both in pedagogy and content, is essential to classroom success and teacher retention. Building upon their national and international expertise and partnering with our area school districts and education cooperative, we felt that this was a strong way to help cultivate the next generation of teachers. 

What comes next?  

We will be announcing our first apprenticeship program very soon and are looking forward to sharing more details about it! We are excited to be partnering on a federal grant application that will help to provide additional opportunities for apprenticeship students and are keeping our fingers crossed on the success of that application. Finally, we are excited about the upcoming state budget investments aimed at teacher candidates going through their teacher preparation. At UK, we are constantly listening to our communities, their schools and helping to advocate for additional investments in helping to build and sustain a Wildcat-strong teacher pipeline and alumni network. 


As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.