KCSOS’s Teacher Development Program teams up with local universities to help bolster the school teacher pipeline
While California’s devastating drought has been on everyone’s mind, water isn’t the only thing the state is lacking. A teacher shortage is reaching epidemic proportions and the San Joaquin Valley is among the regions in the state with the greatest need.
A combination of an aging workforce and impending retirements, population growth and fewer potential candidates in the teacher pipeline has contributed to the deficiency.
According to statistics from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the number of candidates enrolled in teacher preparation programs fell from nearly 45,000 in 2008-2009 to fewer than 19,000 in 2013-14, with a proportionate dip in the number of credentials issued.
While the downward spiral has slowed a bit in the past couple years, school officials blame the scarcity of teacher candidates on the Great Recession when funding for schools suffered and schools had to lay teachers off.
According to the Labor Department figures, California schools lost 82,000 jobs between 2008 and 2012. Because there were fewer jobs available then, potential teachers chose other career paths.
With funding now restored, districts have been able to reduce class sizes and add more positions. This has created even more jobs to fill.
“There is definitely increased opportunities for qualified teachers. That is the primary message we are trying to get out to the public,” said Tania Schalburg-Dykes said, coordinator for the countywide Teacher Development Program, which collaborates with local universities to help bolster the teacher pipeline.
The program hosts several information sessions throughout the year with the next one scheduled for Dec. 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at the Superintendent of School’s downtown Bakersfield headquarters. Registration is not required.
“We want to inspire folks who want to go into teaching and educate them about how to follow that dream,” Schalburg-Dykes said.
The info session takes aspiring teachers through a checklist of the steps needed to become a credentialed teacher, before opening up the floor to representatives from local teacher preparatory programs.
Schalburg-Dykes said the first step is simply to make sure teaching is for you by experiencing a classroom through volunteer work or substitute teaching.
That is exactly what first year teacher Scott Hallmark did. After a seven-year career in the IT field, he opted to hang up his computer mouse for something he hoped would be more fulfilling.
“It wasn’t satisfying to me anymore. I decided to make a change in my life and started substitute teaching,” he said.
After just a few months, Hallmark fell in love with the job and decided to go back to school get his Multiple Subject Credential. He is now a sixth grade teacher at Buttonwillow Elementary.
“With my other jobs in the past, it was only about making money for the company,” he said. “As a teacher, I have the responsibility and the ability to make a difference in my community, which is extremely rewarding.”
Almost mid-way through his first year in the classroom, Hallmark is getting adjusted to the rigors of teaching and likes the variety each new day brings. The support system at his school has been wonderful, he said, and his class size is very manageable.
“Being able to come to work every day and mold students’ minds is something that I find very intriguing and enjoy tremendously,” he said. “Teachers are amazing human beings, and I am so glad that I can call myself one.”