WEBSITE GUIDES INDIVIDUALS THROUGH PROCESS OF BECOMING TEACHER
Multiple reports have shown in recent years that interest in the teaching profession is waning nationwide, but an initiative launching Wednesday could help change the tide in North Texas.
TeachDFW.org, which is kicking off at the College Football Playoff Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers Legacy Summit at Southern Methodist University, will work to increase the numbers of high-quality teachers in the area and elevate the perception of the profession.
The teacher recruitment initiative unites Dallas-based The Commit! Partnership with the U.S. Department of Education- and Microsoft-backed nonprofit TEACH on a one-stop informative website for individuals interested in learning more about teaching.
“We see this as a critically important initiative and also foundational to the work that we are doing across the organization to ensure that all of our students have access to great teaching and are set up to be successful and to thrive,” said Kelly Kovacic, who serves as Commit’s director of educator initiatives.
Last year, Commit worked with Bain & Co. to analyze the educator pipeline in Dallas County. The study found the number of university graduates from Texas education programs is decreasing by nearly 2 percent each year, and student interest in pursuing a teaching career has dropped 16 percent since 2010.
“The fact that they are working together as one team, one group is really powerful.”
“We are also seeing an increase in teacher turnover rates, which is resulting in increased demands and financial burdens on school systems as they are having to spend more resources to recruit more teachers and train more brand new teachers,” Kovacic said.
The demand for teachers isn’t a new problem. In 2010, foreseeing a rising need, the Department of Education began a national campaign to promote interest in the profession. Now, it’s localizing the message through regional initiatives, beginning with TeachDFW.org.
TEACH Executive Director Zach Levine said North Texas proved an ideal testing ground given the area’s inventive teaching practices and existence of a group like Commit, which unites more than 190 education nonprofits, groups, school districts, and higher education institutions in the region.
“The fact that they are working together as one team, one group, is really powerful,” he said.
THE ‘GOOGLE’ FOR DFW TEACHER RECRUITMENT
From exploring what it’s like to be a teacher to learning how to become one through profiles on teacher preparation pathways and school districts, TeachDFW.org will guide prospective educators through their journey to the classroom.
Sitting by idly with recruitment won’t cut it, a proactive approach is needed, Levine said.
“We’ve been passive as an education system and expected people would show up [to become teachers], so TEACH is trying to solve that problem,” he said.
Paige Ware, interim dean at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, said, currently, information is dispersed in bits and pieces often through word of mouth or researching a particular education pathway. TeachDFW will provide a comprehensive resource.
“It’s like a Google for people who want to become teachers,” Ware said.
Levine said other website features allow individuals to connect with current teachers, learn about opportunities to test their skills in the classroom, and determine available financial aid and scholarships.
He calls it the “2.0” of the national website, Teach.org, with expanded elements, better functionality, and a focus on local resources.
TEACH is planning to create similar websites in other states including one in California later this year as well as establish more relations with local teacher preparation programs and education organizations.
“A complete, cohesive recruitment strategy requires those on-the-ground partners,” Levine said.
CHANGING THE NARRATIVE ABOUT TEACHING
For veteran teacher Kovacic, there is no career more rewarding or important to society, but surveys administered as part of the Bain study found some college students had a more unfavorable view. Contributing to that opinion was a low perception of salary, career trajectory, and lack of prestige.
She said TeachDFW.org will work to dispel myths about the profession.
“One of the things that’s a real misconception that we are trying to actively make sure we debunk is the idea that a starting teacher salary is really low,” Kovacic said.
In North Texas, first year teacher salaries hover around $50,000, which is comparable to entry pay in other industries, she said.
Ware said education has been the site of more innovation in recent years including in the number of certification pathways and community partnerships.
“There are just so many opportunities as a teacher to be a leader and really stretch your creativity and your intellectual powerhouse …”
“I think for young people, there’s a new vibrancy in teaching especially in these urban areas that have a lot of partnerships,” Ware said.
SMU has established programs with Teach for America DFW and Dallas ISD to both aid in certification and boosting existing teachers’ expertise through training. It also launched a federally-funded program this semester called Project Connect, which targets teachers interested in developing an expertise with English-language learners and bilingual education.
Educating lies at the bedrock of any community and is a valued role that should be celebrated, Kovacic said.
“There are just so many opportunities as a teacher to be a leader and really stretch your creativity and your intellectual powerhouse, so that’s going to be a big part of our message as well — to shift the whole narrative of teaching,” she said.
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