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The quality of our future depends largely on the quality of today's education. Those who will solve the world's toughest challenges are likely studying, right now, in classrooms across the United States.
Teaching has never been more vital to our future. Yet, our state and country face serious challenges that prevent teachers from thriving. Young teachers often land in distressed schools that test their resolve. Many leave the profession entirely, abandoning their gifts and cutting short their dedication to a better tomorrow.
At the beginning of this month, I gave a talk, Our Teachers, Our Future: Addressing the Teacher Labor Crunch in Southern Arizona, to the Yale Club of Southern Arizona. I outlined some of the initiatives the college is undertaking, including those listed below.
You are likely aware there is a serious shortage of teachers in the state. The shortage is the result of two factors: teachers leave the profession at a higher rate than other fields, and it is increasingly challenging to recruit new teachers. At the College of Education, we have prepared and supplied great teachers for many decades, yet we are unable to satisfy the demand that exists today.
One of our initiatives is the Arizona Teaching Fellows program. We know that if we recruit and prepare teachers from the communities in which they will teach, they are far more likely to remain in the field.
In the fall, we will start the first round of the Arizona Teaching Fellows program in partnership with the Sahuarita Unified School District. Teachers in this first cohort will be known as Sahuarita Teaching Fellows. Upon successful completion of this pilot project, the college will expand this work with additional school districts, including the Tucson Unified School District.
Our Teachers in Industry provides continuing education to Arizona teachers serving the hot-topic areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through immersion in private-sector companies. Instructors in these fields are thought to be in the class only three to five years before they leave.
Yet in the six years our Teachers in Industry program has existed, only two participating Arizona teachers have left their profession. That translates into an impressive retention rate of 96 percent! Read more in this article featured in TechConnect.
Research clearly shows that no single action improves educational outcomes more than ensuring there is a great teacher in every classroom. USAF Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Ron Shoopman, president and CEO of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, serves on the executive committee of Tucson Values Teachers and is a member of the Arizona Board of Regents. Read the opinion piece he wrote on teacher retention for the Arizona Daily Star here.
Dean Ronald W. Marx