Viterbo University and Milwaukee Public Schools Announce "Emerging Educators" Partnership

Sept. 10, 2019

Contact Sara Cook at 608-796-3382 or or Anthony Slaby at 608-796-3042 or


LA CROSSE, Wis. – Viterbo University and Milwaukee Public Schools have announced a new partnership designed to help alleviate the teacher shortage in the school district through a program that allows paraprofessionals and other employees to earn a bachelor’s degree in education.

Through the new elementary education bachelor’s degree completion program—dubbed “Emerging Educators” by Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS)—MPS employees who hold an associate’s degree can complete an education degree with licenses in K–9 as well as cross-categorial special education from Viterbo in under three years. These MPS employees will receive a special tuition rate from Viterbo and receive tuition assistance from MPS, ensuring they will graduate with no debt. Forty MPS staff members began in the Viterbo program in fall 2019, and they will continue their full-time employment as paraprofessionals and resident substitute teachers during the day and will take Viterbo University classes offered right in the district in the evening.

MPS has recently struggled to fill hundreds of open teaching positions. Many of the thousands of paraprofessionals employed in the district would like to find a way to complete a bachelor degree and become licensed teachers, but until now, they have not had an accessible option to do so. Further, this pathway to a degree and licensure for paraprofessionals will help fill those positions with qualified teachers who increasingly reflect the diversity of the children in the district. 

“We are thrilled to partner with MPS to create an innovative pathway to our bachelor’s degree in education for employees within the district who already demonstrate they have a heart for children and a passion for education—paraprofessionals who are working with kids every day,” said Sara Cook, dean of the College of Education, Engineering, Letters, and Sciences at Viterbo University. “So we can broaden the program and serve paraprofessionals and others wanting to complete a degree in education across the state, in 2020 we will also be offering the program in an online format.”

In a separate program created to further assist with the shortage of special education teachers, Viterbo and MPS have also partnered to bring Viterbo’s cross-categorical special education post-baccalaureate licensure program to the district allowing individuals holding a bachelor’s degree to become a special education teacher in approximately 16 months.

Past partnerships between Viterbo and MPS for graduate level programs have been very successful, producing more than 100 reading and special education teachers in recent years.