How to Address the Teacher Shortage and Support Educators
COVID-19 continues to ravage the U.S. and its impact is far-stretching — from unemployment rates at an all-time high to vaccine production and distribution shortages. Yet another crisis has the potential to impact educators, school administrators, and students across the country. A recent Wall Street Journal article (“Teacher Shortage Compounds Covid-19 Crisis in Schools,” Dec. 15, 2020) depicts the teacher shortage that has been evident since May of 2020, due to teachers who have quit, retired or taken a leave of absence.
In this Q&A interview, Kathy Stoehr, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Arts in Teaching and Teaching Credential Program (MATTC) at Santa Clara University’s School of Education and Counseling Psychology shares her perspective and expertise on overcoming the teacher shortage facing our nation and ways to support educators with our Senior Assistant Dean, Jana Hee.
Jana: Given the current crisis, how can we support teachers?
Kathy: It is really important to acknowledge and appreciate all that teachers are doing for their students during this challenging time. Many teachers are juggling multiple roles, such as caring for or overseeing their own children’s virtual or hybrid school, perhaps caring for elderly parents while at the same time working hard to provide their students with an engaging and rigorous learning experience.
One way to support teachers is to ensure that teachers receive the preparation they need to feel confident and competent in a virtual classroom. Additionally, teachers must have the necessary tools to teach online, including an updated computer, a strong Internet connection, access to a printer, and technical support.
Jana: There are many pathways to becoming a teacher. What do you recommend as a first step for those who are interested in pursuing a teaching career?
Kathy: First and foremost, individuals interested in becoming a teacher should plan to spend time in a classroom to gain an introduction to a teacher’s life. Teachers can always use another set of hands in their classroom, such as having someone work one-on-one with a student or with a small group of students in the various content areas. Right now, this might mean a virtual classroom until teachers and students return to the physical classroom, but the opportunities still remain.
Jana: Can you share any advice or recommend any resources for teachers who are in the midst of a challenging school year as they continue to navigate virtual or hybrid learning, the changing government regulations, and balancing home life?
Kathy: Teachers must take good care of themselves mentally and physically, which may differ from person to person, so identifying what that is for each individual is important. For some, it may mean doing yoga, going for a walk, a run, or a bike ride. For others, it may be binge-watching a television series, working on 1,000-piece puzzles, baking, or cooking. Whatever it is, it is essential to take some time to re-energize.
Additionally, it is vital that teachers stay connected and have the opportunity to present and share new ideas as they explore new approaches to working in the virtual/hybrid classroom. There are wonderful content-based and often-free resources across the K-12 grade levels that teachers can access. Using a keyword search can often lead to these resources. And joining a relevant professional organization according to which level they teach (elementary, middle, or high school) or areas of specific interest (social studies, language arts, science, etc.) is also a great way to benefit and learn from what peers are going through and sharing their experiences.
Jana: Tell me a bit about your background.
Kathy: I taught elementary school for eight years (first, third, and fourth grades) and two years at the middle school level teaching mathematics and science. I taught in Northern California, Melbourne, Australia, Houston, Texas, and Santiago, Chile. I enjoyed my time teaching children but became interested in working with elementary preservice and early career teachers. I pursued my PhD in Mathematics Teacher Education at the University of Arizona, and upon receiving my degree, joined the faculty in the Department of Education at Santa Clara University. I am currently an Associate Professor and the Director of the Master of Arts in Teaching and Teaching Credential Program (MATTC).
Jana Hee is the Senior Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management and Student Services for the School of Education and Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University. For any admissions related inquiries, contact email@example.com.