A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Breaking down the Big Picture of Education: Calling the next generation of teachers; how you can help

Education is vital to the success of our region, our residents and our workforce. The following is the third in a series of articles on the importance of education in Northern Kentucky. The series is produced by the Advancing the Big Picture Coalition of the Northern Kentucky Education Council. Each article will focus on a particular aspect of education, will provide data and information from the community and its leaders and will end with a call to action.

Teachers are vital to the future of our region, yet the number of college students pursuing education degrees declined by more than 13 percent over a five-year period from 2013-2014 to 2017-2018, according to a report issued by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky is working to enhance teacher recruitment efforts through “go TEACH KY.” This initiative is highlighting the importance of teachers and recruiting new teachers through incentives such as college tuition loan forgiveness in the amount up to $5,000 per year for four years.

Katie Elkus: Looking forward to a career filled with fulfilling moments.

Universities and school districts are also working together to help aspiring teachers. They are creating career pathways that result in high school students achieving their dreams of becoming teachers sooner. The Teaching and Career Learning Career Pathway program provides students the opportunity to complete college courses for general education and teacher education pre-major program during high school. They are also given the chance to apply concepts learned in the classroom through cooperative experiences, internships, shadowing and mentoring opportunities. Having completed these prerequisites, Teaching and Career Learning Career Pathway students can immediately begin coursework for the teacher preparation program when they enter college. Traditionally, students would not be able to enter a college of education until two years after acceptance into the university.

What’s happening in NKY?

School districts in Northern Kentucky are working collaboratively to provide opportunities for students to experience the teaching profession.

• Ignite Institute, Northern Kentucky’s first regional public school, has developed partnerships between industry, community, and the school to provide project-based learning and authentic career skills. Ignite Institute College of Education scholars develop skills, disposition, and knowledge to become educators who can facilitate future generation’s academic and socio-emotional learning and development.

• The Erlanger-Elsmere School District offers many opportunities for their students to get a taste of what it would be like to be a teacher. Any high school student interested in becoming a teacher can work with elementary school students. Middle and high school students can also work with special education students through a mentoring program.

• Students in the Teaching and Learning Pathway at Highlands High School in the Fort Thomas Independent Schools have the opportunity to earn 12 total hours of college dual credit coursework that transfer to the Teacher Education Program. The purpose of Highlands’ Teaching and Learning Pathway is to empower students with the knowledge, dispositions, and skills to be effective educators in a variety of disciplines and grade levels. Cooperative experience, internships, shadowing, and mentoring opportunities provide depth and breadth of learning in the instructional program and allow students to directly apply concepts learned in the classroom.

• Northern Kentucky school districts also support university embedded programs for teacher education majors. NKU teacher education students working on elementary education or middle grades certifications complete their field experience placement and methods courses at Boone County School District’s Florence Elementary School and Erlanger-Elsmere Independent School District’s Tichenor Middle School. These embedded programs allow teacher candidates to practice their teaching skills and get immediate feedback from classroom teachers. Student can also make connections between hands-on teaching experiences and strategies learned in class.

Why should we help create a pipeline of new teachers?

• Teachers matter. Research shows teachers impact their students, short- and long-term, academically and non-academically. In fact, people who choose to become teachers do so because they want to have a positive influence on students.

Amanda Dempsey: Loves getting to know her students and their goals

Amanda Dempsey, college coordinator at Ignite Institute and 2019 Gold Apple Award recipient said, “My favorite part of being a teacher is the relationship I get to build with my students and getting to know their personal story, their families and their goals. I focus on what they want to accomplish academically, who they want to be as a person, and how can I help them get there.”

Katie Elkus is majoring in education because she finds “working through a task with a student and witnessing him/her experience the ‘aha!’ moment” rewarding and sees these times as special moments shared between a teacher and student. Katie wants to be a teacher because she is looking forward to “an entire career filled with fulfilling moments like those would be.”

Erika Dolan is a current Ignite Institute College of Education scholar. Erika’s grandparents and aunt are all teachers, and her father, Leon Dolan, supports Erika’s decision to pursue teaching because he strongly believes in letting his daughter pursue her own interest and find a profession that she will enjoy. He has observed how much Erika loves to read and especially enjoys the process of obtaining new information. Mr. Dolan feels his daughter is wonderfully suited for the teaching career.

Cheyenne, who is in 6th grade at Ockerman Middle School shared how her teacher has had a lasting impact on her life, “My preschool teacher [has a great impact] because she continues to check in with me.” For Noribeth from Holmes, her 5th grade teacher helped her “learn more about math and about responsibility and how to solve life problems.”

How can you help?

Below are some actions you can take to help address the teacher shortage and motivate the next generation of teachers:

• Consider becoming a teacher.

• If you are a teacher, tell three people why teaching is a great profession.

• If you are a parent, show support for your child’s teachers by developing partnerships with them.

• Voice your appreciation for teachers. Share how your teachers helped you prepare for your career.

• Start and/or sponsor future teacher associations at local schools.

• Advocate for teachers to have salary and benefits equal to their professional contributions and expertise.

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