Teacher preparation programs are developing aspiring educators as a part of the solution to the shortage of teachers in our state.
South Carolina is currently facing a teacher shortage, and while the problem has not yet been resolved, there are two organizations that were created in an attempt to help recruit and retain teachers and aid in that shortage. Those two organizations are the Teaching Fellows program and the Call Me MISTER program.
the Teaching Fellows program is a part of the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA), which is located on Winthrop’s campus.
As stated by junior elementary education major, Baili Byrd, the CERRA program was founded in 1999 when the South Carolina General Assembly initially noticed the teacher shortage in the state. Byrd has an add-on certification in early childhood education.
Teaching Fellows program is a statewide fellowship that contains a scholarship earned during the senior year of high school. By accepting the fellowship, students attend training seminars and agree to serve at local schools outside of their regular course-load as part-time or full-time students. After the students graduate, they agree to teach in South Carolina public schools for every year that he/she received the program-awarded funding.
Call Me MISTER is another organization of similar significance as the Teaching Fellows program. Sandez Werts, senior special education major with a concentration in emotional and learning disabilities, is a part of that program.
Werts states that The Call Me MISTER program began as an initiative to diversity the teacher applicant pool within South Carolina. The program began at Claflin University, Clesson University and Benedict College and Morris College.
“It showed me the possibilities. Coming into college, I was your stereotypical small-town guy. I still am, at heart. But CMM provided me with a community of men of color who had been in my shoes. They were able to use those experiences to mentor other young men and myself since day one. The acronym “MISTER” stands for “Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role-models”. The structure of the program allows for just that. I have been able to connect with African American males who want to be educators, and those who are educators, at a degree I didn’t even know was possible,” Werts said.
An annual South Carolina education supply and demand report is made available by CERRA. As stated in their report, CERRA administers a survey about the supply and demand of South Carolina educators every year and report on the findings “to collect information on rates of certified teachers entering the profession, those leaving their classrooms, and the number of vacant teaching positions.”
According to the report, in the 2017-18 school year, there was a 16 percent increase of vacancies in comparison to the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
Teacher candidates share the excitement of thinking about having post-graduation jobs with this program, but the teacher shortage also brings concern, as Byrd mentioned.
“The SC teacher shortage rate is concerning. We began this school year with several hundred vacant teaching positions in the state. What does this mean? Overcrowded classrooms and sometimes even unqualified people educating our children. We are quick to worry about the state of our world, but so slow to stress about how we cultivate the future of our society. Our children are our future — their education is more important that we give credit. It’s time to do something about it, and I think the Teaching Fellows program is one part of that initiative,” Byrd said.
Werts also has his own feelings about the teacher shortage in SC but his passion for the job trumps the problem at hand.
“In the case of teacher shortage, it is not the ‘what’ that worries me. It’s why those educators have decided to leave the workforce, and why college students are not interested in pursuing a career in education,” Werts said. “People change career fields everyday, but with education, it is a little different. Typically, educators are not leaving the field because they have found other interests. They’re leaving because of ‘teacher burnout’ within their first few years of teaching. No matter what you believe about teaching, I am here to tell you that it is not an easy job. If teachers do not feel supported by the administrations they work under, the communities they work in, and the government entities that fund education, the flame that once burned bright will smolder. As for my after graduation plans, the teacher shortage has honestly excited me. With my influence, I hope that I can inspire other young adults and children to consider teaching as career. I want to show students that the possibilities are endless.”