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Amid Nationwide Teacher Shortage, Kyrene Finds Educators from Within

Posted July 2023


Finnian “Finn” McLarnon may be one of Kyrene School District’s newest teachers, but he’s a familiar face to the students and staff at Kyrene de las Manitas Innovation Academy as he returns for a third year in a row—this time as a kindergarten teacher.

McLarnon is an example of Kyrene’s innovative recruitment and retention efforts in action. Kyrene School District has managed to stay ahead of the curve as schools and districts across the country grapple with a growing teacher shortage. However, the District is not waiting for a crisis to arrive and has been proactive not only about recruitment but also about reimagining school staffing.

McLarnon joined the Manitas team as a student teacher in 2021 while finishing his degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from Arizona State University (ASU). Manitas is home to a unique staffing model, which surrounds students with educators, ranging from student teachers and early-career teachers to experienced classroom teachers and a Teacher Executive Designer. The model creates a pathway of career growth for educators and is designed to attract and keep top teachers.

He quickly fell in love with the team teaching model and the learning studios that reimagined traditional classrooms. It’s an environment he, himself, may have benefited from when he younger. He says struggles with dyslexia and attention deficit disorders presented challenges in the standard school setting, and he didn’t always feel understood. It’s part of what drew him to teaching.

“School wasn’t really enjoyable for me until I started taking education courses in college,” McLarnon shared. “I had a hard time staying engaged, and it was a frustrating experience for me and my teachers.”

Those experiences are what led him to teaching, and what keeps him at Manitas. When there weren’t teacher vacancies at the school during the 2022-23 school year, McLarnon stayed on as an instructional assistant. In May, he accepted a position as a kindergarten teacher and is thrilled to be teaching within the innovative Manitas environment.

“Our goal is to serve kids in the best way we can.” McLarnon said. “This model just provides a level of collaboration and creativity to the process that you don’t always see in regular classes.”

The team-based approach allows educators more opportunities to collaborate with and support each other than are possible in a standard one teacher per classroom set-up.

“I can’t imagine being a first-year teacher anywhere but Manitas,” McLarnon shared, noting the overwhelming support he has received from his co-teachers.  “More than anything, I am excited. To know that even on the hard days, I contributed to the success of our students. Nothing beats that.”

The new school year brings both excitement and trepidation for McLarnon, who says he’s a little anxious about meeting all his new families. So, if your kindergartener is nervous about the first day of the new school year, tell them not to worry. Mr. McLarnon gets nervous too, but together, they’re going to have an awesome year.