Education experts have found the ongoing teacher shortage has lowered graduation rates and disproportionately impacts students who are already marginalized.
The National Center for Education Statistics shares that 45 percent of public schools report feeling they are understaffed for the 2023-24 school year.
There are many reasons behind the teacher shortage, but an alternative teaching certification program that's growing could be a possible solution.
Liliam Lujan Hickey Elementary School third grade teacher Christina Day spent five years substitute teaching, but recently became a certified licensed teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada, thanks to iteach.
It's an alternative teaching certification program that started two decades ago in Texas.
Iteach president Andrew Rozell says it's now expanded into eleven states: Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
"20 years ago, my mother started this company to reduce the barriers into the field of education without reducing rigor," Rozell said. "So we have national accreditation, we hold the exact same accreditation as most state universities and private institutes training teachers."
Instead of going back to a traditional university for four to six years, iteach certifies new teachers within 12 months through online instruction and classroom supervision. The cost is about $5,000 dollars.
Learning about iteach was a relief to Arlington Preparatory Academy high school science teacher Megan Hall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who says she struggled getting her biology degree at a traditional university.
"This was really in reach for me, especially as an adult with A.D.D., like actually being able to kind of set my own pace and take care of things as I could and work through the process," Hall said. "Like that was absolutely what I needed. It was very accessible for me."
Now, both Hall and Day have been awarded "Best New Educator of the Year" in their respective districts.
They say they've found their purpose and aim to inspire their students as their former teachers inspired them.
"There was a teacher who really helped me and I always say, representation matters, so she looked like me, she was an African American young woman," Day said. "And seeing her teach, I just, I loved her."
Rozell says iteach is working hard to expand its footprint across the U.S., but he says it's a long and complicated process that is unique to each state.