Stephen Miyasato traveled from Honolulu, Hawaii to Greeley because the teacher candidates are 'just better.'

Miyasato admits that he has a bias since he is a UNC alumnus, but as a personnel regional officer for the State of Hawaii Department of Education, Miyasato is also an experienced recruiter of future teachers.

Miyasato was one of three recruiters from Hawaii to attend UNC's 33rd Annual Teacher Employment Days (TED) event. And like many of the recruiters attending TED, Miyasato's job was to recruit educators to fill critical teachings posts back home.

"The [school] districts have so many needs, especially special education, ESL, STEM, and any of those types of openings," said Renee Welch, UNC's director of career services.

Welch is responsible for organizing UNC's largest career event of the year, which was held in the Bank of Colorado Arena and accommodated more than 160 school districts. But with districts traveling from across the country to fill necessary vacancies, she also had a waitlist of 25 other districts.

According to Welch, the pipeline for teacher candidates is low, and the demand for qualified educators is high, leaving school districts challenged to fill their roles.

"It is hard for districts right now because I don’t think that they can get as many applicants as they need."

A recent UNC Magazine story outlined the crisis facing rural Colorado districts; and monthly meetings with district human resource administrators, coupled with strong ties to schools across the state, has kept UNC attuned to Colorado's needs and challenges.

Student looks at teaching opportunities in Pueblo

With the shortage of qualified applicants, Welch sees a great career opportunity for UNC students.

"Ever since I noticed the decline [in teachers], I began sharing with our students that there was an opportunity. So, for our candidates, it is an opportune time to be a teacher because the pipeline is still not as filled up as it once was."

Welch helps UNC students take full advantage of that opportunity and the reputation of UNC's education programs.

"Our reputation is so good that I don't have to sell UNC or a UNC student, but we do provide extra support for our students so that when the attend the event, they feel confident in their ability to connect and interview."

Extra support comes in the way of training during UNC's teacher seminar classes, as well as workshops for resume reviews, mock interviews and coaching sessions. Welch's team organizes much of this work during the TED Prep event that happens a few weeks prior to the employment fair.

"We had about 50 students attend TED Prep this year where they had an opportunity to connect with HR professionals in schools to receive advice for how they could best go through this process."

Welch plans to survey the participants, but already received anecdotal feedback from districts that TED Prep participants were more confident and better prepared than non-participants.

Formal feedback will help her expand the program and encourage more students to participate in order to meet the growing demand for well trained educators. 

"My dreamland would be that the teacher pipeline picks back up and that schools are able to have their needs met. As a mom, my perspective of that is different now. To have kidos in classrooms without teachers, or school districts with so many kidos that they don’t have enough qualified teachers – that’s a problem and it is my hope that, that problem will go away." 

How You Can Help

UNC has long been recognized as the state's premier institution for training educators. But as the shortage for teachers grows in the state and across the country, UNC must do more to continue to inspire students to choose education as a profession.

A scholarship is one way that you can help UNC attract and retain the best and brightest students to serve as future educators in our community. In doing so, your gift has an ability to impact the education of children in classrooms across the state and around the country. Make a gift today.

The lives touched by a UNC education are exponential. It's personal in a way. It impacts us all.

- Renee Welch, Director of Career Services