Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rio Salado Solution to Arizona’s Teacher Shortage

image of a teacher with a student at a blackboard

This blog feature contributed by Rio Salado staff member Stefani Blaylock provides a look at the challenges Arizona schools are facing as a result of teacher shortages-- and a solution to help fill those needs.

Grow Your Own Teacher:
Rio Salado’s Answer to Arizona’s Teacher Shortage

For the past several years, Arizona has experienced a teacher shortage. Some attribute the situation to higher standardized testing requirements, substandard classroom resources and low pay.

In addition, a recent survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association, 52 K-12 public school districts in Arizona will have nearly 1,700 unfilled teaching positions for the upcoming school year.

Rio Salado College is working to combat the shortage by offering three “Grow Your Own Teacher” programs that identify and recruit future teachers. Many teaching candidates are individuals already working at the school as support staff or are community members interested in the profession.

image of Jennifer Gresko
"By offering flexible and affordable programs, we can assist schools in identifying potential teachers who are already embedded within their community,” said Dr. Jennifer Gresko, Educator Preparation Programs faculty chair. “When drawing from your own community, the likelihood of the individual teaching for the school long term is greater.”

Rio offers three pathways to become a teacher: a Bachelor’s Degree Pathway, the Teacher in Residence program and the Post Baccalaureate program. These educational programs are tailored for candidates at any education level: adult basic education students who need to earn a GED, students who are ready to enter college or those who are re-careering.

photo of principal Crudder
“If Arizona wants the high level of achievement and learning for students, schools need to have the best candidates teaching,” said Dr. Michael Crudder, Principal of Copperwood Elementary in the Peoria Unified School District.

“With the small pool of applicants schools have right now, candidates who normally would not have an opportunity to be the classroom are being hired, which lowers the quality of education for students.”

Retirees and Substitutes
To compound the issue, a large number of teachers and employees are expected to retire in the next few years. A 2015 Arizona Department of Education study found that more than 26,000 public school employees, including teachers, are eligible to retire in 2018.

Because of this shortage, understaffed schools will need to use substitute teachers or increase class sizes. Since substitute teachers are limited on the number of days they can teach in the classroom, multiple substitutes maybe required before a permanent teacher is hired.

This scenario creates classroom management issues as students must adjust to a new teacher and their teaching style, and also increases gaps in learning due to inconsistent curriculum and subject knowledge from one teacher to the next.

Large class sizes create another set of issues. With more students in the classroom, teachers have less time to work with each individual student making it more difficult to meet their learning needs. Additionally, student learning and retention rates decline as students experience a decrease in quality instruction and an increase in distractions from crowded classrooms.

Rio Salado’s Teacher Ed Programs
Rio Salado offers a bachelor’s degree pathway in partnership with Northcentral University. Depending on the degree, candidates can transfer up to 90 credits from Rio Salado toward a bachelor’s degree. All classes are online with the exception of in-person field experience hours.

photo of Poloni
Current Rio Salado student Federico Poloni works with at-risk high school students during the day and takes classes at night.

“I have a heart for Glendale and want to give back to my community by becoming a teacher and making an impact on students,” Poloni said. 

“I eventually want to teach freshman math. The fact is with online classes, you don’t have to go to a physical place, which makes it easier for working adults.”

Rio’s Teacher in Residence program allows candidates to take classes while at the same time working as a paid full-time teacher with an intern certificate.

This program requires candidates to already have a bachelor’s degree in addition to other qualifications to get started.

“The TIR program allowed me to work in the classroom as I was taking classes online toward my certification,” said Tammy Kohli, who teaches in the Scottsdale Unified School District. “Rio Salado also enabled easy access to great staff support and exceptionally qualified teaching staff.”

The Post Baccalaureate program is also designed for those who already have a bachelor’s degree and a desire to teach at the preschool and K-12 grade levels. The program takes a minimum of a year-and-a-half to complete including a 12-week student teaching placement.

With start dates almost every Monday, Post Baccalaureate candidates can begin classes as soon as one week after admittance to the program.

Explore Teaching Workshop
For more information about becoming a teacher, a free Explore Teaching Workshop will be held on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Rio Salado College Conference Center in Tempe.

This workshop will introduce and address many questions potential teachers have about a career in education before they commit to a certification program. To register and for more information visit www.riosalado.edu/workshops or call 480-517-8140.



Stefani Blaylock serves as Rio Salado's Coordinator of Public Programs for the President's Office.