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AU News

Teacher Shortage in the Spotlight at COE

February 15, 2018
Ashlee Vanasse decided on a career as a teacher not because it’s an in-demand field.

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At Anderson University’s College of Education, a degree isn’t about finding a job in an in-demand profession. But it doesn’t hurt. 

For her, it’s all about what she calls “those spark moments.” 

“When working with students of any age, they come to a moment when they understand what you are saying, when it all clicks and they break out into this huge grin,” said Vanasse, a senior elementary education major at the Anderson University College of Education. “That moment is what makes every second of repeated instructions and classroom management worth it.”

Vanasse is entering a profession in flux. By all accounts, a shortage of teachers in South Carolina is reaching a point of crisis. 

That’s why the timing of a teacher recruitment event at Anderson University is so crucial – and timely. 

The College of Education at AU, in conjunction with the Career Planning and Professional Development Office, is hosting representatives from 40 school districts throughout the southeast in a networking event for nearly 100 students who will graduate this spring with degrees in education.

The event is scheduled for Feb. 26 at the G. Ross Anderson Student Center, beginning at 2 p.m.  

For Vanasse, it doesn’t hurt that she’s entering a profession she loves, from a school whose reputation is strong, at the precise moment school districts need eager educators.

“It’s thrilling to know (of the demand),” she said. “But that does not mean I shouldn’t worry about finding a job. It just means that during the upcoming networking event there will be many great positions that I’ll be competing for, and I hope to impress the principals and district leaders in attendance.”

That’s precisely the goal, AU officials say. 

“This event will provide our students with an invaluable opportunity to build their professional network and interface with potential employers,” said Dr. Mark Butler, Dean of the College of Education at Anderson University. “Not only does it allow students to find out what the various districts offer, but it also provides the students the chance to become more comfortable meeting with professionals in their field.”

The ranks of those professionals are dwindling.

According to data from South Carolina’s Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement, nearly 7,000 teachers left their jobs at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 school year. While some now teach in other districts, about 5,000 left the professional altogether.

And the problem is not limited to South Carolina. According to U.S. Department of Education data, close to eight percent of teachers nationwide leave the profession every year. What’s more, the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute reported that between 2009 and 2014, enrollment in education programs in colleges across the country fell by 35 percent.

That’s why representatives from school districts in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, along with South Carolina, will attend the Feb. 26 education networking event at AU.

“These districts are currently in the process of hiring for the 2018-2019 school year,” Dr. Butler said. “By providing this opportunity, many of our spring graduates will have the chance to expand their options in seeking their first teaching job. By inviting these districts to come on campus and meet our students, they will be able to make a more educated decision as to where they fit, both for their calling and their career.”

Butler oversees one of the most robust programs at AU. Bucking the national trend, the College of Education at AU is growing, and now boasts an enrollment of nearly 800 students in both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. That’s an increase of more than 57 percent from 10 years ago.

Vanasse, who hopes to begin her career in her hometown of Greenville, S.C., said that growth is fueled by the quality of AU’s programs and the dedication of its instructors. She said she’s seen first-hand how skilled professors, guided by a practical and rigorous curriculum, is preparing AU students to fill today’s teacher shortage.

“My professors asked me hard questions, and spent their time with me to answer any questions I had,” she said. “They poured into me in a way that made me want to show the same love and compassion they showed me to my future students.”

COE Networking Event Spotlight: Noelle Kemble

Noelle Kemble College of Education Anderson University Full Name: Noelle Elizabeth Kemble

Hometown: Greenville, SC

Planned Graduation Date: May 12, 2018

Major: Elementary with Early Childhood-Add On

Career Plans: I am a South Carolina Teaching Fellow, which means that I have had extra training in addition to my Bachelor of Science Degree in Education. It also requires me to teach in a public school for at least 4 years. Therefore, upon graduation, I plan to teach in an Elementary School in Greenville, South Carolina.

What made you want to be an educator?

Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to be a teacher. This might seem like a cliché answer but as far as I can remember being the teacher and grading papers was a common playtime routine for me. However, there was one moment in my life that I decided that becoming an educator and influencing the lives of children daily was my call-in life. In high school, I had the opportunity to attend two mission trips to the Dominican Republic. On both mission trips, my team and I worked in a Vacation Bible School for children in some of the poorest communities in the DR. After seeing the smiles of children when they were learning made me want to see those smiles for the rest of my life. I want to see those smiles when my students finally understand content that they have been struggling with. I entered education because I wanted to be an advocate for my students. I want to help them to learn and enjoy learning. I want them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers that will one day influence society.

Additionally, I want to be an advocate for my students. Some students might not have anyone if their life that loves them and pushes them to do well in school. Therefore, I want to be that one person that influences the lives of my students.

How does it make you feel to know you are studying a field with high demand?

The teacher shortage did not really play a large role in my decision to pursue an education degree. I would have pursued a degree in education even if the teacher shortage was not such a big concern. I think it is vital that we have strong educators who love their students and who want them to do well in school, and I want to strive to be one of those people.

How has AU prepared you not only as a future educator, but as a person?

I have been very pleased with Anderson University. Anderson University`s College of Education is very extensive and very thorough in preparing their students for teaching upon graduation. Through my classes at AU, I have theories and effective strategies that will help me to become a well-prepared educator. I was very prepared and was able to pass all of my Praxis exams on my first attempt. I have been given opportunities in education that many other colleges do not offer. For instance, I will be Read to Succeed certified when I graduate whereas educators now are being required to go back and earn their Read to Succeed certificate. I have also been observed and critiqued based on the E-ADEPT rubric that Second Year Teachers will be evaluated by. This gives me additional assistance and practice being evaluated according to that rubric. In regard to how AU has prepared me as a person, it has provided me with lifelong friendships. Professors have really become some of my mentors that I feel I could contact if I needed advice or assistance. Through Wednesday morning chapels, I have been pushed and challenged to continue my relationship with God. Overall, I have loved every minute of attending Anderson University, and will be very sad to graduate and leave in May.

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