The National Education Association estimates the U.S. is facing a shortage of about 300,000 teachers and support staff. Job openings began to outnumber hires in 2017, and the gap has only widened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
With more than 480 years of combined experience in preparing exceptional educators, it’s no surprise that Pennsylvania Western University is doing its part to address this growing crisis.
“Our sister campuses share a proud history in teacher preparation,” said Dr. Daniel Engstrom, interim dean of the College of Education. “As the demand for qualified educators grows, PennWest continues to look for new recruitment and training solutions to meet the dire need within our communities.”
Here’s a look at some of the latest initiatives.
Edinboro partnered with the Erie School District (ESD) to launch Boro-Teach in July 2021. The innovative dual-enrollment program provides a career pathway for ESD students interested in becoming educators.
Selected students take one class each semester during their junior and senior years at Erie High School and complete a summer residency on the Edinboro campus to earn 12 college credits at no cost.
During the residency, each student can identify a major within the College of Education, complete the PennWest application process, participate in a group volunteer project and assist in Edinboro’s summer literacy program for local, elementary-aged children. Boro-Teach students are also assigned a peer mentor who is a current Edinboro student in the education program.
Program costs are supported by contributions from ERIE Insurance Group through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program and the John Drew Scholar Education Fund. Students are guaranteed an interview for a teaching position with the Erie School District upon graduation.
“Recognizing the very real shortage of teachers, we developed Boro-Teach as a pilot to help students get a head start on their educational journey and to increase the diversity of teacher candidates,” said Dr. Stephanie Williams, coordinator of Field Services & Partnerships for the Office of Clinical Experiences and Partnerships in PennWest’s College of Education. “Our goal is to expand the impact of this program to additional high schools and our sister campuses.”
Clarion Teacher Candidate Residency Program
Clarion, in conjunction with Local Education Associations, developed a year-long teacher residency program that allows emerging educators to experience a full year of teaching prior to graduation.
Established as a pilot program in August 2019, the residency model matches theory and practice through a blend of course content and real-world classroom experience.
“Scaffolded field experiences better prepare teacher candidates to enter the workforce with a much lower turnover rate than traditional models of student teaching," said Dr. Timothy Stevenson, associate dean of the College of Education. "The full-year residency provides teacher candidates the unique perspective of what is involved in a working classroom from day one to the end of the school year."
Teacher candidates shift from a student teacher to a co-teacher, creating and covering content alongside their mentor teachers. Mentors address any gaps in pedagogy as the candidates hone classroom management skills and gain confidence in their abilities.
Edinboro Noyce Teacher Scholar
Funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the Edinboro Noyce Teacher Scholar (ENTS) program provides financial support and professional development opportunities to STEM majors and recent STEM graduates interested in a teaching career.
Qualifying STEM majors can receive two one-year $17,150 scholarships to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, mathematics, physics or biology and a Pennsylvania secondary teaching certification. Recent STEM graduates can also apply for a one-year $30,000 stipend to earn a teaching certification.
Upon completion of the program, scholars are required to teach two years in a high-need school district for every year they received the scholarship or stipend.
“Almost all the schools in Erie and Crawford counties are considered high-need,” said Dr. Roger Wolbert, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and principal investigator for the NSF grant. “This funding is helping to meet the needs of our region while producing life-changing pathways for future leaders in the field of secondary STEM education.”
The program is being jointly administered by expert faculty in the College of Natural Sciences & Engineering Technology and the College of Education.
Noyce scholars meet monthly with faculty for fellowship and mentoring and attend seminars on trauma-informed instruction, educator ethics, socio-scientific issues, culturally responsive pedagogy, new teacher induction, early career transition, restorative practices and positive behavior instructional supports.
At the start of the 2022-2023 academic year, 28 scholars had been admitted to the program.
Karen and Tom Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education
Launched at the start of the 2018-19 academic year, the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education provides top-notch preschool education for children ages 3-5 and hands-on learning opportunities for high-achieving California students majoring in Pre-K to Grade 4 Education.
The institute was funded through the generosity of Tom and Karen Rutledge and made possible by a partnership between PennWest California and The Village, a state- and nationally accredited preschool based in downtown California, Pa.
Ten students are selected each year based on a rigorous set of qualifications. They receive an annual scholarship that covers the cost of tuition, academic fees and on-campus housing and gain valuable experience working with children in the on-campus education center under the direction of PennWest faculty and The Village teachers.
Rutledge Institute Scholars supplement their classroom studies and fieldwork with research, peer-mentoring and an annual summer workshop focused on innovation in education.
Upon completion of the program, scholars earn a Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) in Grades PreK-4 Education, plus Pennsylvania teaching certification and the Integrative STEM Education Endorsement.