Catholic school in north Minneapolis gets creative to fill positions during teacher's shortage

As the gym teacher at Ascension Catholic School in North Minneapolis, Noah Emmes educates students about how to stay active. But he's the one who's really getting a kick out of exploring a new profession.

"It's surreal, you know? I didn't think I'd be back here. I'm glad I am back here," said Emmes.

Emmes attended Ascension from kindergarten through 8th grade, just like his mother and uncles did before him. After graduating from DeLaSalle High School, Emmes says he felt lost working at a local grocery chain, so he became an educational assistant at his old elementary school.

But when the physical education teacher position opened up, Noah's former gym teacher, Ms. Jean, encouraged him to apply for the job, even though he didn't have his teaching license.

"So the kids, a lot of them are North Siders like me. So, I was in their shoes at one point and I want to make a positive impact," said Emmes. 

Ascension's principal says over the last couple of years, 10 to 15 percent of the school's teaching and specialist positions have been filled by people who have worked in education but don't have a teaching license.

He says it has been a creative way to address the ongoing teacher shortage, but while a license isn't required to teach at a private school, it is preferred.

"As an accredited school, we want as many of our teachers to be licensed, and that's the ultimate goal. We understand that that path looks a little bit different in terms of whatever their starting point is. But the end goal being that we do want to help them obtain their licensure," said principle Benioto Matias.

Emmes plans to pursue a two-year college degree to eventually get his teaching license, so maybe one day he can inspire one of his students to follow in his footsteps, like his former gym teacher inspired him.

"I would love to be the gym teacher for a long time," said Emmes.