Have you ever had a teacher that impacted your life for the better; one that encouraged you to love learning and made you feel like anything was possible? Could you imagine how different your educational experience would be without that teacher?
According to U.S. News & World Report, the United States is facing its first major teacher shortage since the 1990s, with teaching at its lowest point in 20 years. For thousands of children across the country, interactions with these life changing teachers could become rare as schools struggle to fill teacher positions.
Dr. Barbara Marinak, Education Department Chair and professor of reading at the Mount, believes that teacher burnout and higher retirement rates are two of the biggest factors leading to this shortage. Individuals who have recently graduated with an Education degree may realize that they are not called to work in the classroom, but will instead pursue a new position in education, such as a reading specialist or administrator, or change careers entirely. Not only this, but teachers who postponed retirement during the 2008 recession are now retiring in large numbers.
The number of teachers leaving the classroom at a dramatic rate will have several negative consequences for the school system, especially for schools in low-income areas. The shortage is hitting all aspects of education, not just teachers, but also administrators and teaching support specialists. The Maryland Teacher Staffing Report 2016-2018 listed the following as teaching content shortage areas: Business Education (7–12), English (7–12), Mathematics (7–12), Biology (7–12), Special Education, French (Pre-K–12), Spanish (Pre-K–12), and Art (Pre-K–12). These areas require highly qualified teachers, and when one is not available, school districts are forced to either cancel courses in these areas, or hire an unqualified teacher.
During the last teacher shortage in California, schools were offering positions on provisional certificates to juniors in college. These students were earning a partial paycheck in the classroom while doing internship work at the same time. Dr. Marinak believes this had a negative impact on student learning because these new teachers were not equipped to take on a classroom that quickly. They were overwhelmed, and the program was an overall failure because there were not enough supports in place for the students to be successful.
However, the teacher shortage will have a few positive implications. For example, Dr. Marinak sees this shortage as an opportunity for career changers to get a graduate degree in teaching. These people have degrees in something else, but are dissatisfied with their professional lives. They see the need for teachers, and come back to teaching as a career through a program like the Mount’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT).
“To me, teaching is creativity,” said Dr. Marinak. “The most effective teachers are those that are the most creative. They celebrate and embrace diversity in the classroom,” she suggested, citing a quote from educator Jerome Brunner, who says, “The essence of creativity is figuring out how to use what you already know in order to go beyond what you already think.”
The Mount prepares students to work in a variety of public, Catholic and private schools. In an attempt to combat the national teacher shortage, recruitment efforts are in high gear for all teacher education programs. New programs will help add richness to the Mount’s education department, such as the Master of Education in Instructional Leadership, which works to prepare principals, and this summer’s addition of Biology to the MAT program, to help meet STEM program demands. The Mount also offers the MAT in Business Education.
The national teacher shortage will affect all parts of the U.S. Mount students called to serve may want to consider adding a major or minor in education. Dr. Marinak voiced that at the Mount, “teacher education is a big tent, and we welcome all perspectives and disciplines in our programs.”
Photo courtesy of Immortal News