As captain of the PSU women’s basketball team, Mikaela Burgess was well-versed in teamwork and pressure. She played against some of the nation’s best competition on its biggest stage in her career, including three NCAA Division II Region championship tournaments and one Elite Eight.

As an Early Childhood Education major, she faced a different kind of pressure: she was a student teacher to 24 second graders.

Her decision to become a teacher couldn’t have come at a better time: area school districts have faced a teacher shortage. A recent survey by the College of Education predicted area districts will need to fill as many as 1,386 teaching positions by 2020.

To a student athlete like Burgess, the 1,000 hours of required field work to become a teacher could seem daunting with an already full schedule. What Burgess found at PSU: coaches and faculty work together.

Coach Lane Lord shifted his team’s practice times to accommodate players’ academic schedules.

“We’re going to do whatever we have to do to get them all together for practice without sacrificing class time,” Lord said. “If that means holding practice from 9 to 11 at night, that’s what we’ll do. We want to win games, but the focus is always on academics first.”

Student athletes are provided schedules well in advance, communicate planned absences with their professors early, and even attend class via Skype while on the road.

“Coaches and faculty all work together and it’s for one reason: our students,” Lord said.

The results of that type of cooperation and focus on academics are reflected in the team’s overall grade point average: the 2016 team G.P.A. of 3.7 earned it a seventh-place tie on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Academic Honor Roll.

Burgess said she was appreciative not only of the coaching staff’s accommodations, but of the professors in the College of Education for helping nurture her passion for teaching.