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Maintain High-Quality Education System

To The Reader’s Forum:

Area superintendents hit the nail on the head in discussing with The Post-Journal the teacher shortage that school districts across New York are facing (Retirements, enrollment changes push need for teachers, May 8).

The U.S. Department of Education has officially designated about a dozen teacher shortage areas across New York, including in areas like special education, English as a Second Language, and even science, social studies and ELA. Yet enrollment in state teacher preparation programs has declined by 50 percent since 2009.

Coming off Teacher Appreciation Week to begin this month, we shouldn’t underestimate how important simply showing respect for the teaching profession is when it comes to recruiting the next generation of teachers. We have to actively show students the rewards of a career in education.

Hands-on experience through “grow your own” programs can give students a sense of those rewards. Some districts have developed future teachers clubs or established courses in which middle or high school students are given an opportunity to explore teaching with elementary students. Encouraging a diverse cross-section of students to engage in such programs is critical because we know that all students benefit from a diverse education workforce.

There also is work to do simply to foster a more positive school experience for students. That means using significant resources approved at the state and federal levels this year to tackle issues like classroom over-crowding, a lack of AP or elective courses, rising mental health needs among students, and the need for opportunities to play and socialize. Not only is this essential for preparing students for college and careers, but it can help leave young people with the impression that education is a labor of love worth returning to as adults.

Actively engaging families is critical, too. Strengthening the bond between families and educators not only improves academic outcomes, but it can help nurture the next generation of educators.

New York State United Teachers has been leading the Take a Look at Teaching initiative aimed at addressing the shortage and diversifying the education workforce. But it takes buy-in from an entire community — from teachers to school administrators to parents — to implement solutions district by district.

Ensuring we maintain a high-quality equitable public education system for all is well worth the hard work.

Jolene T. DiBrango

Executive Vice President

New York State United Teachers

Latham, N.Y.

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