UNC’s Future Teacher Conference Continues to Fuel the Teacher Pipeline
March 4, 2021
In a never-ending quest to fuel the teaching pipeline in Colorado and nationwide, the University of Northern Colorado virtually hosted its sixth annual Future Teacher Conference on Feb. 19 with keynote speaker Governor Jared Polis.
Polis addressed nearly 150 high school and community college students as he encouraged them to pursue a career in teaching and that, now more than ever, high quality, passionate teachers are needed in the state of Colorado. Participants represented over 70 high schools throughout Colorado and across the nation.
When asked about how this year's conference went, Suzette Youngs, co-organizer of the Future Teacher Conference at UNC, said, "I’m super impressed with the students. The questions they asked of the governor and student panel were engaging and thoughtful questions. The conference is more diverse than before. However, elementary education continues to lack diversity. So, it’s not only how can we make teaching interesting but how do we support diversity in teaching in our conference and be even more inclusive?"
The conference’s popularity has grown significantly since it began. The first year that the conference took place in 2016 saw only 44 participants attended; however, there has been huge increases in the number of participants each year with 534 attending the last conference in 2020.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s conference was held virtually on Zoom, which offered an opportunity to expand the reach of the conference. Future teachers registered to attend were from Arkansas, Texas and across Colorado and Wyoming. The conference involved capacity crowds, engaging sessions, student panels as well as a parent seminar that helped parents understand the first steps in the college process.
The conference also offered students the opportunity to learn more about teaching in specific areas including early childhood, elementary and secondary education, special education, urban education, rural education, culturally linguistic and diverse education, music and art education, and educational psychology. UNC faculty, students, alumni and current K-12 teachers from partner schools led sessions on a variety of topics.
“We know that getting teachers into the pipeline is only half the battle; we need to find innovative ways to support teachers from college and into their first through fifth years of teaching,” said Youngs and Chris Kyser co-organizers of the Future Teacher Conference at UNC. “We know that new teachers and teacher candidates persist when they feel a sense of belonging, and the goal is to bring groups of aspiring and current teachers together, creating a bridge from high school through college to the first years of teaching. The first years are a critical time in teaching, and we hope our conference and programs will provide the support teachers need to succeed. We strive to build a community of teachers.”
Next year's conference will be held on Feb. 18, 2022.