University of Northern Iowa president Mark Nook is looking for ways to ensure students in UNI’s Teacher Education program get a stipend while they’re student teaching.

“Student teaching is the original internship in higher ed. It was the first internship. It’s always been an unpaid internship and more and more people are recognizing that internships really should be paid positions at some level,” Nook says. “So how can we do that with student teachers? Can we raise some funds to offset the expenses students incur as student teachers?”

Students are supervised by a licensed teacher as they gain experience in managing a classroom for a semester and those students are responsible for paying their own living expenses.

“At the moment in this state, the only support we have for teachers is after they have a degree,” Nook says. “In other words, it’s a retention incentive.”

Iowa is not unique. Student teachers in the U.S. are rarely paid, although lawmakers in a handful of other states have begun discussing how to change that. Nook is asking the 2023 Iowa legislature to provide UNI $4 million to support teacher development.

“A lot of those dollars would go towards supporting student teachers and actually helping pay them as they are student teachers at least a stipend to defray some of the extra costs they take on,” Nook says, “and make this internship — student teaching — a paid internship.”

Nook made his comments during a recent appearance on Iowa Press on Iowa PBS. The University of Northern Iowa has the state’s largest teacher education program, with about 450 students graduating every year.

Radio Iowa