First the good news, UNC was recently awarded a $2.2 million grant by the Colorado Department of Higher Education to address the state’s teacher shortage in rural school districts. The Rural Educator Recruitment & Retention grant will fund the establishment and operation of the Center for Rural Education and focus on the high-need areas of science, mathematics, special education and cultural/linguistic diversity.
The teacher shortage is the not such good news. Colorado released a report this week indicating that the number of “individuals completing an education preparation program at Colorado colleges and universities during the 2015-16 academic year declined by 2.2 percent,” 24.4 percent since 2010. You may have seen the recent Denver Post headline.
The statewide shortage is why support for UNC’s teacher preparation programs is of critical importance. Founded as the state’s normal school, UNC has a long and distinguished history of training and preparing our state’s education workforce. 23% of the state’s degree completers train at UNC, the largest percentage of any single institution; UNC hosts the region’s largest teacher employment fair; and specialty programs like Cumbres and the UNC-School of Mines STEM collaboration are integral to addressing the state shortage. Also important is the scholarship and mentorship support that our alumni, particularly our education professionals, provide to current students. Alumni investment supports a student’s choice to pursue the profession and succeed in it after graduation.
Next week UNC will celebrate the December 2016 Fall Commencement. We will acknowledge and celebrate the academic achievement of hundreds of students, welcoming each into the forever family of UNC Bears alumni. There is no better time then now to reflect on what we are doing to support our education majors, teacher candidates and current education professionals getting ready to walk across the commencement stage and toward the stage of their career.
This is a situation near the hearts of many UNC alumni, as well as our community at large, so if you have an opportunity to thank an educator, support a student, or raise awareness please do so. UNC and the UNC alumni community are uniquely positioned to champion the importance of teacher preparation within the state of Colorado.
Of course the situation is more complex than a one-and-done statistic; but as individual UNC alumni - and beneficiaries of the knowledge brought to life through the care and professionalism of our past teachers and professors - I say that if there is more to be done, then more we shall do. Wouldn't that be good news?