Where are All the Educators? | OP-ED
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After three academic years impacted by COVID-19 control measures, with schools in the poorest areas bearing the brunt, experts are assessing how the pandemic impacted—and continues to impact—the state of K-12 education nationwide.
Although much attention has been paid to students’ learning losses, there has been less focus on the current teacher shortage. According to a U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences report, 44 percent of public schools reported having full —or part-time— teaching positions.
Philly’s Education Crisis
With one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, Philadelphia is facing a startling teacher shortage. The Pennsylvania Department of Education determined that Philadelphia will need thousands of new teachers by 2025.
Superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington said that each morning he asks himself the same question: “How are the children?” The stress caused by the pandemic and the severe decrease in the number of teachers are causing many difficulties for students. Addressing the crisis of available educators is a critical element for improving K-12 students’ well-being.
Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty has noted that teacher availability is one of the most pressing challenges our schools are facing. “Teaching is the profession that unlocks the workforce for all other professions, so we must find ways to encourage more individuals to answer the call and enter the classroom”.
Acting Secretary Hagarty put it perfectly. Teachers are the key to all development and growth, both personal and professional. We all have a story about a teacher who had a lasting impact on our lives.
School districts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education are exploring innovative solutions to address the problem in the short term, but we must look to the future to expand K-12 teaching.
Innovating to Create Teachers
Holy Family University’s College of Education faculty members dedicate their careers to ensuring our programs are accessible to any students aiming to become impactful professors. We offer flexibility to prospective students regardless of where they are in their educational career: our Early Childhood Education Pathway Program Pre K-4 Bachelor of Science concentration offers students year-round classes in the evenings, on-site and online.
Our strong and innovative partnerships with local community colleges increase the pipeline of students to Holy Family’s School of Education. Expanded certification and graduate programs help educators at all levels in advancing their skills for lifelong learning.
Thanks to our strong presence in Northeast Philadelphia and Newtown, Holy Family professors often return to their home communities to enlighten and inspire the next generation of young people.
Alumni are a crucial component of the process. Dr. Lisette Agoston Cintron M’02 D20, principal of the School District of Philadelphia, was recently honored as one of AL DÍA’s 2022 Women of Merit, and Jayda Pugliese ’09 M’14, principal of St. Mary Interparochial School, was one of the eleven teachers from the United States and the Netherlands to be named members of the Lowell Milken Center in 2022. Jayda, who is pursuing her doctoral degree at Holy Family, is living proof of how education can change lives as the first person in her family to graduate from high school.
Holy Family alumni are regularly recognized as leaders inside the classroom as well. Seven Holy Family alumni were honored with the School District of Philadelphia’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teachers in 2022: Marie Ames ‘92, Frances E. Willard School; Lori Harkins M’05, Henry A. Brown School; Lauren MacDonald M’14, Henry H. Houston School; Jaquelyn Mengel M’10, George W. Nebinger School; Christopher Nevrincean ’14, M’19, Watson Comly Elementary School; Brian Rost M’19, Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Center; Timothy Tracy M’10, Philadelphia High School for Girls.
Despite progress, education workers require the next big wave of knowledgeable experts who are dedicated to bettering the lives of our children.
We will continue to seek entrepreneurial ways to work with partners throughout the Philadelphia region as we strive to educate college students to become purposeful professionals and help stem the education crisis.
(*) President Holy Family University.