The Second Great Virginia Teach-In: A Call to Teach
Virginia’s aggressive effort to recruit highly qualified teachers continues with the second Great Virginia Teach-In: A Call to Teach, which is scheduled for March 5 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond. The teach-in will bring together more than 150 exhibitors and employers, including school districts, teacher preparation programs, and state-approved “career-switcher” programs to prepare professionals for second careers as classroom teachers.
The Great Virginia Teach-In is part of the teacher retention and support component of Governor Mark R. Warner’s Education for a Lifetime Initiative. The first teach-in, which was held in March 2004 at the convention center, attracted 3,824 attendees, including out-of-state educators interested in teaching in the commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) estimates that school divisions have hired more than 300 new teachers as a direct result of the 2004 teach-in.
“The Great Virginia Teach-In is an opportunity for experienced and prospective teachers from other states to learn about the benefits of teaching in Virginia and about the quality of life enjoyed by our citizens,” said Governor Warner. “The teach-in also levels the recruiting field by providing access to a pool of potential candidates that many of our smaller divisions might otherwise never see.”
“Our objective is to make sure that Virginia is on the radar screens of experienced teachers in other states and young men and women who are about to graduate from teacher preparation programs in states where there is a teacher surplus,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynne DeMary. “We also want qualified teachers in states where there have been layoffs to be aware of the opportunities here for continuing their careers. Attending the Great Virginia Teach-In is a great way to learn about what Virginia has to offer.”
Teachers from other states will have opportunities during the teach-in to submit resumes and interview with representatives of most of Virginia’s 132 school districts. They also will attend informational sessions and workshops on Virginia’s academic standards and licensure requirements, and the commonwealth’s initiatives to support new and beginning teachers. There also will be workshops for graduates of teacher preparation programs and students enrolled in other degree programs. Professionals and retired military personnel interested in starting second careers as teachers will attend workshops and presentations on Virginia’s acclaimed Career-Switcher alternative path to licensure.
“There is a great pool of talent in the private sector and the military,” said Thomas A. Elliott, assistant superintendent for teacher education and licensure. “Virginia’s Career-Switcher programs allow these qualified professionals to begin rewarding second careers without having to enroll in traditional teacher-preparation programs.”
About 500 members of high school Teachers for Tomorrow programs are expected to attend a pre-teach-in conference at the convention center on Friday, March 4. The students will meet with several award-winning Virginia teachers, including 2000 Milken Educator Award winner Wade Whitehead and 1998 National Teacher of the Year Phil Bigler. Adolph Brown III, chairman of the psychology department at Hampton University, will be the keynote speaker for the Teachers for Tomorrow conference.
The number of Teachers for Tomorrow programs has expanded as a result of the Governor’s Teacher Retention and Support Initiative with more than 50 Virginia high schools now offering programs. Participating students learn about teaching as they are guided through the history of education and the functions of schools and school districts. The students also experience the classroom as they serve internships under the direction of experienced teachers. The internships culminate with students developing and carrying out lesson plans. Virginia's Teachers for Tomorrow program utilizes the South Carolina Teacher Cadet curriculum to guide this instruction.
Although teacher preparation programs graduate many new teachers each year in Virginia, retirement and attrition rates are increasing. During recent years, Virginia school divisions have had to fill more vacancies than the number of new teachers graduating from the commonwealth’s 37 approved teacher preparation programs.
Research at the national level has projected significant and growing shortages of teachers throughout the country, particularly in the endorsement areas of science, mathematics, foreign languages, and special education. Estimates of the supply of teachers over the next several years suggest the current shortages are likely to continue. A survey conducted by VDOE during the 2003-04 school year identified Virginia’s top-ten critical shortage areas as science, special education, career and technical education, mathematics, English as a second language, middle grades, foreign languages, computer science, history and social science, and reading.
The 2005 Great Virginia Teach-In and other Education for a Lifetime teacher retention and support programs are funded through a $13.5 million federal Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant Virginia received in September 2002. The initiative also includes:
These initiatives complement on-going programs to enhance the teaching profession in the commonwealth, including the Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program, which provides financial support for students preparing to teach in critical shortage areas, and subsidies and incentive awards for teachers who are seeking or who have received National Board Certification.