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For Immediate Release
February 2, 2004
Contact: Charles Pyle
Director of Communications
(804) 371-2420
Julie Grimes
Public Information Specialist
(804) 225-2775

The Great Virginia Teach-In: A Call to Teach
Innovative Conference and Job Fair
Set for March 27-28 in Richmond

Virginia is stepping up its effort to recruit highly qualified teachers with the Great Virginia Teach-In: A Call to Teach. The teach-in, which is scheduled for March 27-28 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, will bring together more than 100 exhibitors and employers, including school districts, teacher preparation programs, and “career-switcher” alternative licensure programs designed to prepare professionals for second careers as classroom teachers.

The Great Virginia Teach-In is a component of the Teacher Retention and Support Initiative Governor Mark R. Warner announced late last year as part of his Education for a Lifetime initiatives to expand learning opportunities for students and workers while promoting efficiency and accountability.

“The teacher shortage is a statewide challenge that demands a statewide strategy,” said Governor Warner. “The Great Virginia Teach-In is an opportunity for experienced and prospective teachers to learn about the benefits of teaching here and for the commonwealth to recruit the highly qualified teachers Virginia must have to build on its success in raising achievement.”

Virginia has identified 18 states as potential recruiting grounds based on geographic proximity and analyses of employment trends and teacher supply and demand, including Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New York, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Virginia’s outreach to potential teachers in these states includes newspaper advertisements, direct mailings, and a website (www.greatvateachin.com) featuring streaming-video of Virginia teachers who began their careers elsewhere commenting on the commonwealth’s academic standards, support for teachers, and the benefits of living in Virginia. Participants may register online by visiting the website, clicking the appropriate link, and filling out an online registration form.

“We are reaching out to teachers and graduates in these states to make sure that they are aware of the career opportunities available in Virginia,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynne DeMary. “Our objective is to make sure that Virginia is on the radar screen of teachers and graduates interested in relocating to another state.”

“Teachers who come to Virginia will find a supportive teaching environment and rich cultural, historic, and natural resources,” said Laurie Sullivan, Virginia’s 2004 Teacher of the Year. “Virginia is a great place to teach and a wonderful place to raise a family.”

During the Great Virginia Teach-In, experienced and beginning teachers from other states will have opportunities to submit resumes and interview with representatives of Virginia’s 132 school districts. They also will attend institutes, workshops on Virginia’s academic standards and licensure requirements, and other initiatives to support new and beginning teachers in the state.

Professionals interested in starting second careers as teachers will attend workshops and presentations on Virginia’s acclaimed Career-Switcher alternative path to licensure. There also will be workshops for graduates of teacher preparation programs and college and university students enrolled in other programs.

“This is an exciting time to be a teacher in Virginia,” said Secretary of Education Belle S. Wheelan. “Our teachers are leading the way in raising student achievement and the commonwealth is implementing an array of new programs to mentor new teachers and recognize the accomplishments of experienced educators.”

“Our hope is that after attending the Great Virginia Teach-In, qualified professionals and students who hadn’t thought about teaching will consider a career in the classroom,” said Thomas A. Elliott, assistant superintendent for teacher education and licensure. “There is an great pool of talent in the private sector and we intend to tap it for the classrooms of Virginia.”

A department study conducted during the 2002-03 school year identified Virginia’s top-ten critical shortage areas as mathematics, special education, science, career and technical education, foreign language, English as a second language, middle grades, library media, art, and reading.

Although teacher preparation programs graduate many new teachers each year in Virginia, the rates of retirements and attrition are increasing. Research at the national level has projected significant and growing shortages 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.

The Virginia Department of Education’s Report on the Supply and Demand of Instructional Personnel in Virginia: 2001-2002 found that of the 88,609 teacher positions reported, 4,136 (4.4%) were filled with unendorsed personnel or were unfilled.

At the elementary school level, 698 teaching positions were either unfilled or filled with unendorsed teachers. At the middle school level, 118 teaching positions were filled with unendorsed personnel or were unfilled. Four content areas at the secondary level had positions that were unfilled or filled with unendorsed personnel: English 140, mathematics 183, science 172, and social studies 94. In foreign languages, 135 positions were filled with unendorsed personnel or were not filled, while in vocational education, 235 positions were filled with unendorsed teachers or unfilled.

The Great Virginia Teach-In is one of several innovative approaches to teacher recruitment and retention funded by the $13.5 million federal Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant Virginia received in September 2002. Virginia competed with other states for the grant, which is supporting the work of the Committee to Enhance the K-12 Teaching Profession in developing and implementing strategies to elevate the teaching profession in Virginia, including:

  • The retention of new and experienced teachers through high-quality mentoring programs. So far, six Virginia school divisions and four regional consortia representing 26 additional school systems have received grants to pilot mentoring programs to support new teachers and reduce the number of beginning teachers who leave the profession after one or two years in the classroom.

  • The creation of programs to reduce teacher shortages in high-poverty urban and rural areas through the recruitment and training of qualified men and women who live in these communities.

  • The development of a data-collection system to provide credible and reliable information on teacher and teaching quality indicators.

  • The development of a statewide electronic job bank and hiring hall for all 132 school districts in the state.

  • The development and piloting of high quality mentor teacher programs throughout the state and especially in hard to staff schools.

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.

“Virginia is a beautiful state with a rich history and an exciting future,” said Dr. DeMary. “By participating in the Great Virginia Teach-in, experienced and prospective educators can become part of our success and help shape our future by beginning rewarding careers as Virginia classroom teachers.”