Public education plays a key role in shaping how our society is built, but a rising shortage of teachers in Colorado and around the nation threatens to alter this fundamental institution. The shortage is especially acute in rural areas, and compounding the problem is that teachers who enter the field are not staying.
Ann Sebald, assistant professor and co-director of Colorado State University’s Center for Educator Preparation in the School of Education, has been working with colleagues to address this teacher shortage. Recently they were awarded a grant from the Colorado Department of Education that seeks to improve the situation through promoting enhanced teaching candidate preparation and retention.
The grant funds a collaboration with the superintendent of RE1 Valley Schools in Sterling, Jan DeLay, and CSU Northeast Regional Engagement Center Director Karen Ramey-Torres, also located in Sterling. The project will address teacher recruitment and retention in Sterling’s rural school district.
Recruitment and retention
Last year, Robert Mitchell, academic policy officer for educator preparation in the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and Mary Bivens, director of educator development in the Colorado Department of Education, toured Colorado to get feedback from stakeholders at town hall meetings on the best way to address the teacher shortage. A meeting was held at CSU in July 2017, and teachers, students, parents and University faculty all came out to represent the community and brainstorm solutions.
Mitchell and Bivens provided the state Legislature with a report that provided the framework and knowledge for a series of conversations that prompted several bills. Of these bills, five were passed, and one set aside $2 million to support higher education and school districts. That funding is intended to address teacher recruitment and retention, and Sebald’s $124,000 grant was one of 17 funded with that money.
Retention is one of the major issues in the teacher shortage, explained Sebald. “If we can’t retain the teachers that we have, the shortage will be worse,” she said. “We are making efforts to address recruitment and retention because of this.”
Grant partnership for teacher success
Ramey-Torres initially contacted Sebald wanting to know if she would be interested in a collaboration between the RE-1 Valley School District, CSU Extension and the School of Education.
Together, they were able to capitalize on Ramey-Torres’ connections in Sterling. She is working with DeLay to implement the new grant-funded program for the school district, which has created a series of goals to increase teacher recruitment and retention:
• Goal 1 is to recruit up to 10 teacher candidates from Colorado State University to complete their student teaching experience in the rural RE-1 Valley School District.
• Goal 2 is to enhance support for teachers new to the field through a virtual mentoring program. The program pairs new teachers and their district mentors with CSU principal licensure candidates.
• Goal 3 aims to develop a self-care curriculum that would help improve retention of teachers by creating a community support network.
Additionally, teacher candidates participating in this project will have access to the University’s coaching support system and be held to the same expectations as all other teacher candidates completing their teacher licensure program at Colorado State University. Ramey-Torres also plans to engage with the community of Sterling so that the teaching candidates find housing and feel connected to the community.
“Where we are at today is a result of efforts from the state to address the teacher shortage as we experience it here in Colorado,” said Sebald, “As we work to better address teacher recruitment and retention, we must work collaboratively to better engage and support all stakeholders in teaching students.”
The Center for Educator Preparation is in the School of Education, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.