Sowing the Seeds: Creating Opportunities and Encouragement for High School Students to Pursue Teaching Careers

Date 

September 15, 2017

Social 

The diversity of Oregon’s teacher workforce is not keeping pace with the growing diversity of the state’s student population, as indicated in the 2017 Oregon Educator Equity Report. This is important because recent research has demonstrated that students benefit from a more diverse teaching force that better reflects the student population.

As educators, what role can we play in cultivating excitement for our profession among students of color? At the Lane Education Service District (ESD), we are committed to working with our partner districts to create new opportunities for traditionally underserved high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in education. To that end, we have created our new Teacher Pathway program.

Oregon high school students have access to rigorous and relevant coursework that puts them on a career track in a variety of fields, but education is generally not one of them. For example, a student who excels in math might be urged to become an architect or an engineer. Why aren’t we asking these students: “Have you ever thought about becoming a math teacher?”

I recently interviewed three Latina high school seniors with a deep interest in psychology, and I asked them if they had ever thought about becoming teachers. They had never considered it. More importantly, they had never been asked that question or given an opportunity to learn about what a career as a high school psychology teacher might hold.

If we’re serious about diversifying our future teacher workforce, it’s time to give students the opportunity—while they’re still in high school—to explore both the subject areas they love and the possibility of becoming a teacher.

The Teacher Pathway program started as a conversation with Oregon Leadership Network superintendents in the Lane County component districts. Since then, we’ve gathered research and worked with K–12 and higher education stakeholders to determine the curriculum, instruction, and instructors most appropriate for a high school–level course focused on introducing students to the teaching profession.

Lane Community College will begin offering Fundamentals of Education 105 in the winter 2017–18 term. The intent is to offer the course at participating high schools in fall 2018. This rigorous, relevant, and culturally responsive dual-credit course is still being developed by Lane Community College instructors in collaboration with K–12 educators, but one component is already in place: Each student who takes the course will participate in a teaching internship in the subject area of their choice. In addition, students will be paired with teachers who display highly effective instructional strategies and content-specific, culturally responsive practices. Each student-teacher pair will also have the opportunity to take a three-day summer seminar, provided by Lane Community College instructors, before the fall course and internship begin.

Lane ESD and component districts are not the only ones interested in this approach. A recent Confederation of Oregon School Administrators pre-conference work session featured the theme, “Teacher Pathway Partnerships: Addressing Educator Workforce Needs Together.” In the session we heard from representatives of various community colleges, universities, and school districts that have been working collaboratively and strategically to leverage resources to address the state’s educator workforce needs, particularly for rural communities and districts with diverse K–12 student populations.

I walked away from that session encouraged and energized. I was particularly inspired by the remarks of Dr. Leif Gustavson of Pacific University, who currently serves as the president of the Oregon Association for Colleges of Teacher Education. Dr. Gustavson implored all members of the P–20 education system to put aside their territorial instincts and tendency for self-preservation for the sake of creating high-quality, inclusive, and cohesive teacher education programs that can generate excitement and inspire students to want to pursue a career in education.

This effort must include a genuine commitment to bringing greater diversity into Oregon’s teacher workforce. In Lane County, establishing dual-credit courses and internships that provide high school students with a chance to explore a teaching career is one strategy for achieving a teacher workforce that better reflects the growing diversity of the communities we serve.

If you’d like more information on the process of establishing dual-credit education course in your district or region, please contact me.

See more from Carlos Sequeira on Lane ESD's Instruction | Equity | Partnership blog that includes a wide range of info for Oregon curriculum leaders.