New Hanover County Schools recently held its 5th Annual Legislative Luncheon. Regional Teacher of the Year – Katie Snyder – shared her inspiring speech, “Every Child Needs a Champion.” Ms. Snyder not only addresses the need for every child to have a champion, but for teachers to have a champion too.
“Every child needs a champion” You may have heard this quote before from Rita Pierson on a popular and inspiring Ted Talks for education.
I cannot agree more with this statement… every child does need a champion to ensure he / she are successful in school.
New Hanover County Schools has approximately 26,000 students in need of a champion every day.
I strongly believe that for every child to have a champion, every teacher needs a champion too which is why I have spent the past five years of my career mentoring new and pre-service teachers and how I came to discover what I would talk about today… my core message as I continue my teacher of the year journey: we must recruit and retain high quality teachers… to ensure that every child in our district and in the state has a champion at the front of his / her classroom every day…. We must be the champion for our teachers.
So, how do we do this?
1. Recruiting the best teachers
2. Retention / mentoring
3. Change the narrative about public education
You may have heard that North Carolina is facing a teacher shortage problem like many states around the nation, but this really is occurring and several other districts around the state feel this worse than we do, but this reality is heading for us in New Hanover County very soon.
Enrollment in schools of education throughout the UNC system has decreased by 30 percent since 2010 – This is a reality I have personally recognized. For the past two years, I have taught the social studies methods course at UNCW for students in their pre-internship semester. The first year that I taught the course, there were 10 undergraduate students, last year there were 6 and this upcoming year, I have been told there are only 3 undergraduate students who want to be a high school history teacher!
Last year, the last class of North Carolina Teaching Fellows graduated. In 2011, the state legislature cut this scholarship opportunity which attracted top high school seniors into the teaching profession by covering their college tuition in exchange for teaching in the state for 4 years. The Teaching Fellows program produced about 500 high quality educators each year in our state and ones who stayed in education versus programs like Teach for America which encourage teachers to work for two years and then move on. The Teaching Fellows program has produced many effective teachers who make an impact in their own classroom and in the entire teaching profession. In fact, our current state teacher of the year, Mrs. Keana Triplett and several others before her were teaching fellows recipients.
Another thing that is deterring people from teaching is this new rating system for schools makes it difficult to attract teachers because no one wants to start their career or continue it in a school that has been labeled a D or F school.
Currently, 25% of the 100,000 teachers in North Carolina are in their first five years of teaching and other research suggests that 50% of teachers leave the profession within five years of teaching. So again this teacher shortage crisis is coming …
The #1 cited reason for leaving… lack of support!
To change the climate of public education in our state, YOU need to be the champion for teachers. YOU need to be the voice for our teachers because you have the power to really be heard.
Help us recruit and retain more teachers into the state by advocating on behalf of teachers.
NHCS recently created a scholarship similar to the teaching fellows to encourage high school seniors to go into the teaching profession. This is an incredible start and I hope you continue to offer this amazing opportunity in the future
In the high schools, we need to offer programs like Teacher Cadet and Future Teachers of America to attract students into the profession. I know these programs exist in some locations but not everyone because we don’t have enough teachers to offer this type of an elective.
Teacher pay is a problem as well… I know you saw that one coming… but it’s true! Since I have been teaching for the past 8 years, I have seen my pay increase once and that was hard. I remember a couple of years ago at the end of January calling my dad and crying because I have less that $1 in my bank account and was still days away from pay day and I did not know what I was going to do. This is a reality many of our own teachers face both new teachers and veterans. Now, the state has increased the starting salary to $35,000 to make us more competitive with other states but they did nothing for veterans. Even though our neighboring states of South Carolina and Virginia have average salaries that are below the national average, I could still move either state and see about a $10,000 pay increase… I can think of a lot of things I could use $10,000 for and I know many other teachers are thinking the same thing.
We must bring back master’s pay for teachers! Getting my master’s degree was a game changer for me in terms of being a better classroom teacher and a teacher leader in my school and now the entire district. That additional 10% goes a long way for teachers who have earned it and every teacher with a master’s degree deserves it. Bringing back master’s pay will attract people into the profession, encourage lifelong learning among educators, and restore our value as professionals.
If you get the chance to vote for any increase in teacher pay or to bring back masters pay, please do it! Otherwise, our teachers will continue to leave the state in search of a decent living wage.
Once teachers are in the teaching profession, we must support them. New Hanover County Schools has an excellent new teacher support program in which I am currently conducting a program evaluation of the program in the four traditional high schools as part of my doctorate dissertation. When I am finished with my evaluation, I will share the results with HR in an effort to improve the existing programs and encourage the implementation of similar programs within other schools in the district, in the southeast region, and hopefully, if we’re lucky.. If I’m lucky… throughout the entire state of North Carolina. Teachers who receive effective mentoring during their first three years are more likely to remain in the teaching profession and become high quality educators that impact student achievement… and to be a champion for each of their students.
Mentoring is beneficial for our county’s bottom line too… I know it may not seem like it because you are funding the entire program, but it is cheaper than the alternative. In fact, nationwide, districts spend $7.3 billion on recruiting new teachers and retraining teachers to fill vacancies!
Mentoring our new teachers is equally beneficial for our veteran teachers who serve as mentors in every building in the district. Mentors often increase their own overall effectiveness by working with new teachers and reflecting on their own teaching practice. Mentors gain experience as a teacher leader and many remain in the teaching profession because of this new connection made and the increase in collaboration.
Teachers, both new and veterans, need meaningful professional development. With the dismantling of the professional development department, many teachers are not exposed to new instructional strategies and are not given the opportunity to learn about them. The 21st century is a rapidly changing era and teachers must stay abreast of the latest methods to engage and educate our children. The students are bored… but the teachers do not have the means to improve within reasonable hours. Yes the half days with professional development in the afternoon are great, but they also fall at a time when we need to get grades finalized for report cards or interim reports and this trumps any meaningful PD in our minds. Maybe we could advocate for more local flexibility with the calendar so that each district can create a system that works best for its families instead of the state mandate for when we can start and end the school year.
Please keep supporting our teachers by funding these new teacher support programs and professional development programs.
The most important thing that we can all to in order to be a champion for teachers is to help change the negative image the public has about teachers. On countless occasions, when asked what I do for a living, I have been met with blank, horrified stares accompanied by … “why do you teach high school?” “Isn’t that difficult to control a class?” “How do you survive on a teacher’s salary?”… People question why I would got into a such a profession that so clearly doesn’t take care of its own. Bright high school and college students are practically scared away from the profession before they even start because of these negative attitudes.
Just on Tuesday of this week, I was having a conversation with one of my amazing former students… an African American female who is bilingual and brilliant and doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. I told her that she would make an amazing teacher… her response: “What? NO! Teachers work way too hard and don’t make anything!”
These negative attitudes about teachers are getting to our teachers and many of them buy-in to the negative narrative. Anyone who is familiar with growth-mindset understands the importance of growing children’s minds through positive words, activities, and interactions. This is the same for teachers. There are a lot of negative undertones in teaching… we are working “in the trenches”… New teacher books are called “survival guides.” These words build the narrative that teaching as a profession isn’t worth it.
Well I know and you know it is worth it because we must go into the classroom every day to be the champion our students need us to be. If we want more champions in the classroom, we must change this narrative about public education.
Together, we all can elevate, not denigrate, the teaching profession. Choose your words about education carefully because future teachers are listening and your words may impact their decision to become a teacher or not.
We must be a champion for our teachers and reverse these stereotypes by advocating on behalf of our teachers.
Treat teachers like the professionals we are… we devoted at least four years of college to this field and are constantly developing our own craft. Trust us. We want what is best for our children. We want to be their champion.
The next time I introduce myself to someone and tell them that I am a high school teacher, I want them to smile and I want their response to be a positive one…
Please be the champion for our teachers. Advocate for our teachers. For every decision and vote you get to make, please remember our teachers.
Make conscious decisions to recruit the best teachers to NHCS starting early on in high school, continue to fund and support induction programs which have a positive impact on new teachers and veterans, and help me as I try to change the narrative about public education in our state. Teachers do have a difficult job, but they are doing it every day!
YOU need to be the champion for our teachers so that our teachers can continue to be the champion for our children. Because in order to be successful in school and for the rest of their lives… every child needs a champion. Thank you.