Teacher Shortages: Building the Pipeline

This month’s blog comes to us from Jeanne DelColle, NJACTE member.

Teacher shortages are not a new phenomenon, but the shortages of the past were largely focused in urban areas and in subjects such as STEM and world languages. Now, teacher shortages are ubiquitous across subjects and geography while there are also calls for a more diverse educator workforce. The issue has become so problematic in NJ that in November 2022 Governor Murphy issued executive order No. 309 to convene a group of educators and legislators to form the Task Force on Public School Staff Shortages and they developed a 27-page report with recommendations to address the crisis. Recommendation #18 is to Create pipeline programs for students in middle and high school to pursue a teaching career, which is precisely the work of the Center for Future Educators (CFE).

Research tells us that two of the biggest reasons high school students become educators are self-efficacy- they can see themselves doing the job successfully, and because a trusted adult encouraged them to teach.i The CFE works with school districts as well as educator preparation programs (EPPs) across New Jersey to address these points and recruit the next generation of educators through two initiatives, the New Jersey Future Educators Association (NJFEA) and Tomorrow’s Teachers (TT).

The NJFEA is a club that any middle or high school can start and it gives students the opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes of the profession through participation of activities in the school and district. This could involve being a teaching assistant, decorating a bulletin board, serving as school guides for new students or during parent nights, or bringing in various educators including teachers, guidance counselors, speech pathologists, nurses, and administrators to discuss their journey to become an educator. Perhaps the most significant part of being a NJFEA member is that membership gives students access to regional conferences held at various college and university campuses throughout New Jersey. NJFEA conferences provide several benefits for students including, access to a college campus, the opportunity to learn and be inspired by college faculty and staff about engaging topics, and the opportunity to network with 200-300 fellow future educators from across the state. Students learn that even if people in their life are not supportive of the decision to become an educator, at NJFEA conferences they find a cohort of fellow future educators and realize they are not alone.

Tomorrow’s Teachers is an elective course for juniors or seniors and students can earn dual credit with four different higher education partners across the state for successful completion of the course. One of the great parts about TT is its fieldwork component where, through experiential learning, high school students develop the skills and knowledge needed to be successful educators. Because TT is a dual credit course, schools can be paired with an EPP, which can lead to increased collaboration between higher education and P-12 districts.

There is no one quick fix that will fix the teacher shortage crisis, but we can all do something. Rather than ask students what they want to be when they grow up, instead ask them what problems they want to solve and what they are passionate about doing. Students need to understand that being an educator means being empowered to change lives and make a positive difference in some of the most challenging issues we face today. In order to help students see themselves as successful future educators every middle and high school should have a teacher education pathway whether it is in the form of a club, such as NJFEA or a course like Tomorrow’s Teachers.

For more information on our initiatives check us out at https://futureeducators.tcnj.edu/

Christensen, S. S., Davies, R. S., Harris, S. P., Hanks, J., & Bowles, B. (2019). Teacher recruitment: Factors that predict high school students’ willingness to become teachers. Education Sciences, 9(4), 282.

Submitted by
Jeanne DelColle PhD, Executive Director, Center for Future Educators at The College of NJ