If you’re a teacher, you probably remember someone—a former teacher likely—asking you this question. You remember her saying, “You’ve got what it takes to do one of the most important jobs in our society. Teach.”
The path to the classroom is often bumpy. It is riddled with prerequisites, expensive licensure tests, and, in my case, constantly reminding myself that I am up for the challenge even when I feel like an interloper. In short, the path to becoming a teacher is not easy.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Every year, thousands of college students with ties to Oregon graduate from college. They are talented, intelligent, and ambitious. And they are primed for teaching. Most, however, opt for jobs in the private sector. This leaves Oregon schools with a lean crop of new teachers to supply an overwhelming demand of teaching vacancies.
Research suggests young people develop career choices as early as fourth grade. Waiting until a prospective teacher is college age may be too late because they have had years to cultivate a mindset of career ambitions that may not include teaching.
Fortunately, TeachOregon—a pilot program launched by Chalkboard Project and currently funded by the state—has been piloting a teacher pathway program to help establish long-term teacher recruitment and retention strategies. The Teacher Cadet program—originally from South Carolina—began as a homegrown solution nearly 30 years ago to address the challenge of recruiting and retaining diverse teaching populations. Since then, Teacher Cadets has expanded to 37 states. Oregon school districts began piloting Teacher Cadets a couple of years ago in Salem-Keizer and Springfield school districts as part of TeachOregon. I’m excited that my school district (South Lane SD) has decided to bring this program into our schools.
Teacher Cadets provide high school students the opportunity to learn about the teaching profession and teaching methods, and culminates with a field teaching experience. More importantly, Teacher Cadets instills a belief in students that they have what it takes to become a teacher. This is something students can take with them when they enter college and begin career planning.
As a principal, I am both an optimist and an opportunist. To this end, I believe we will find a system that makes sense for teachers-to-be. In the meantime, I will continue to find ways to clear the path for budding teachers, especially among diverse and underrepresented students, even if they are only in high school. Teacher Cadets is a step in the right direction. The next time I ask a wide-eyed student, “Have you ever thought about becoming a teacher?” I will be able to follow up with, “this is how you do it....”
- Teacher Preparation
- Equity and Diversity