Supporting and Preparing Future Educators

How the shortage of teachers is affecting the student-teaching program

A shortage of teachers is being seen across the country and Central Michigan University is doing what it can to inspire and prepare future educators.

According to the National Education Association’s poll, conducted in January 2022, 86% of members say they have seen more educators leaving the profession or retiring early since the start of the pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 567,000 fewer educators in America's public schools today than there were before the pandemic, and the NEA's analysis of BLS data indicates that 43% of jobs posted are going unfilled.

Rebekah Shultz, a senior at CMU, is pursuing a degree in elementary education and early childhood development and is currently completing her student-teaching at McGregor Elementary School in Rochester, Michigan. When her mentor teacher suddenly fell ill, Shultz was offered the opportunity to take over the classroom.

After successfully filling in, she was offered the opportunity to become a long-term substitute teacher for a second-grade class at her school — an offer she eagerly accepted after fulfilling the necessary approval and criteria.

Shultz said that, for her, teaching means, “having patience for those who do not necessarily have people who can be patient with them. It is helping them grow not only academically but as an individual as well.”

While Shultz’s case is unique in some ways, many students are applying for early release, the opportunity to be a long-term sub once their minimum time in the field has been completed, said Dr. Jillian Davidson, director of clinical experiences at CMU.

Davidson said teacher shortages are cyclical. Ten years ago, the field was extremely competitive and during that same time, the state government completely changed many of the employment benefits provided to teachers, Davidson said for the worse.

“Now we’re in a completely opposite situation where there are a plethora of job openings. We’re seeing our candidates getting job offers before they even graduate,” said Davidson.

Student teachers are facing additional challenges due to the pandemic. “Student-teachers are learning what it means to be a teacher and they are doing it during a difficult time. They are having a once in a lifetime challenging and exciting experience and they are doing it in the middle of a pandemic, which means their experiences may be different,” Davidson said.

Dr. Paula Lancaster, Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at CMU, said student teachers provide a tremendous benefit to teachers in the classroom. “It’s just a great way to talk about your craft and problem solve with someone else,” she said.

She said CMU’s faculty and staff are passionately committed to their students’ success and provide specific feedback throughout the process. This support helps the student-teacher feel more confident and prepared as they step into their new role as a teacher.

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