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By Keerthi Vedantam
PARADISE VALLEY – In a poorly-financed education system, Arizona teachers are battling low salaries, the pressures of mandatory testing and a lack of respect for their profession, making it harder for the state to entice and retain teachers, advocates say. One Paradise Valley mentoring program is trying to grow teachers at home and repair a broken pipeline.
Volunteers in Paradise College Corps, a mentoring program that pairs college students who are aspiring teachers at Paradise Valley Community College with teachers in the Paradise Valley School District, was created in 2013. Laurie Smith, a former teacher and the corps program coordinator at the district, brought the opportunity to Meggin Kirk, education program director at the community college, who decided to implement it into her syllabus as a course requirement.
“The hope was to bring the community into education,” Smith said. “Teachers will remain in the profession if they are teaching in the community where they themselves grew up and went to school.”
Earlier this year, a task force with the Arizona Department of Education called attention to the ongoing issue of teacher retention. The group’s report encouraged local education groups to implement “grow your own” programs to address a teacher shortage where one out of four positions in Arizona go unfilled.
Gov. Doug Ducey proposed an Arizona Teachers Academy to reduce student-loan debts for Arizona college graduates who stay in Arizona to teach.
“I’m looking for the best and brightest to commit to teach in Arizona public schools,” Ducey said in his annual State of the State address this week. “If you make that commitment, we’ll make this commitment: your education will be paid for, a job will be waiting and you will be free of debt. Let’s lift this burden from our teachers, attract new quality individuals into the classroom.”
Other states are pursuing a home-grown model in hopes of spurring retention. South Carolina offered a teaching program in 2015-16 in more than 80 percent of its high schools and provided financial aid to college students who were studying teaching at South Carolina colleges.
Continue reading “Teaching the teachers to stay in Arizona”