Wisconsin badly needs to attract, retain and graduate students in high-need, teaching shortage areas. We are also starving for teaching talent in STEM. And across disciplines throughout the state, there is a clear need for more teachers who better reflect the increasing diversity of our K-12 student populations.

UWO is uniquely positioned to help. The university is experiencing historic increases in enrollment of students of color, and we see an opportunity to inspire, launch and support more students in the journeys to become successful Wisconsin teachers. We are also working toward greater mentorship of student teachers, more partnerships with high schools and expansion of English as a second language and special education instruction, which Wisconsin demands.

To achieve these goals, we need a modern teacher-education center. But there is no need to break new ground. Since 2011, we have had plans ready to go for a cost-effective building renovation. We must get it finished.

The renovations will provide exactly what UWO and Wisconsin need to respond to the teacher shortage: modern classrooms that mirror those our graduates will immediately work in. With the demand for teacher talent so urgent and clear and our plans ready to go, it’s time to finish the project.

UWO graduates about 300 teachers each year, and we want to push ourselves to new heights. We have a plan. We have a building (we just need to bring it up to date). We have an anniversary approaching that reminds us of our roots and responsibility.

We are asking legislators and the governor to support a responsible plan that enhances programs and buildings UWO already has.

As we rededicate ourselves to UWO’s nearly 150-year-old promise of transformative teacher education for a stronger Wisconsin, we also ask that the people of the state reinvest in our efforts and help us get the job done.