Two of the state's top education leaders appeared at the University at Buffalo Tuesday. It was one of four stops on a state-wide 'listen tour' to promote the TeachNY initiative. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the discussion center around a teacher shortage.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia appeared together on UB's South Campus at Hayes Hall on Main Street.
“We’re in the 21st century. We’ve got to move there on education and we haven’t done that yet," stated Commissioner Elia.
“To help us more strategically manage our teacher education enrollment,” Chancellor Zimpher said.
Both Zimpher and Elia point to baby-boomer retirements as a major cause of the teacher shortage.
“That’s really causing a gap that’s faster than we were prepared for, so even though there have been difficulties getting jobs in the past that is going to radically change,” explained Zimpher.
Nationwide, with baby boomers retiring, TeachNY projects there will be the need for 1.6 million teachers in the next ten years.
The Chancellor and Commissioner met with UB doctoral students.
Many of the graduate students are already in the classroom. They told the leaders they need ‘community and school partnerships' with the University.
“I do think we heard the importance of ongoing and continuing support for teachers. It doesn’t just happen when they are in a college program and then they graduate and for one year they have a mentor in that school, it happens in an ongoing basis and the concept of continuous improvement is very important,” Elia stated.
Dr. Jaekyung Lee is UB's Dean of the Graduate School of Education. “You know this is really a combination of a demand and supply issue,” Lee replied.
Professor Lee said they are working closely with local schools superintendents to access classroom needs.
“So what we are trying to do is providing professional development support to the teachers and for those who are working in the disadvantaged schools settings, so for example, English Language Learner support, special education support,” noted Lee.
“I think we’re are guilty of overproducing teachers in certain fields and under producing in others,” stated Chancellor Zimpher.
Some of the critical shortage areas in teaching include special educators and in science and math. Christine Givner is the Dean the College of Education at SUNY Fredonia.
“And we’ve been very engaged in the state level and well as the regional level to engage our partners and our faculty to make sure that we have cutting edge teacher education programs that are clinically rich, from the very beginning, so that they have multiply opportunities to go into the field. They’re mentor by teachers in the field. They become part of a community of practice,” Givner described.
SUNY Fredonia is actively focused on improving in its education department and recruiting first rate students to fill future teacher needs.
Chancellor Zimpher said it’s time to ‘life up’ the teaching profession.
“That’s what we heard. Teachers want to be respected. They want people to understand the work they do. And most of all, at the heart of it, these are people who are dedicated, who chose teaching because they wanted to help young people learn. They want to be recognized for their own professionalism.