LEMOORE — California’s teacher shortage is far from over, but steps continue to be made to encourage teaching as a career option and recruit local students for local positions.
West Hills College Lemoore’s annual Teach Conference for college students, community members and high school students interested in becoming educators will be held on Nov. 3.
The free conference will feature informative panels and information sessions featuring some of the Valley’s top educators and teacher training programs.
“The event is a way to provide information about teaching to our college students, high school students, and the community,” said James Preston, WHCL vice president of educational services. “We have some innovative and amazing current educators who come to speak to our students on a variety of relevant topics to inform them and prepare them for the teaching profession.”
According to a report from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, enrollment in teaching programs has increased statewide over the last several years; from 18,984 students in 2013-14, to 20,881 students in 2014-15 and most recently 21,365 students in 2015-16.
While the growth in numbers is a positive sign for the career field, it’s a far cry from the enrollment numbers at the beginning of the decade; the 2010-11 year saw 34,834 students enrolled in teaching programs across the state.
The shortage has barely improved over the years, which has caused districts to think outside the box on ways to recruit and retain teachers. Many districts have implemented stipends, signing bonuses, emergency credentials and even financial help with relocation.
For Ward Whaley, director of administrative services at Hanford Joint Union High School District, the current teacher shortage is still a problem.
Whaley said the district still has openings for math and science teachers because of the lack of qualified applicants. He said many of the new teachers the district does have are either teaching with emergency credentials or are still interns.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Whaley said.
The problem with not having enough teachers is that class sizes are not at the level the district would like them to be and need to be brought down across all the district’s schools, Whaley said.
Whaley said math teachers are hard to come by because applicants need to have a strong math background by having taken enough math units in college.
As far as science teachers go, Whaley said individuals who go into science generally aren’t looking to get jobs in education and would rather do something that would offer more money.
Despite the struggle, Whaley said the district is doing all it can to support and assist teachers in the district who are interns or teaching with emergency credentials so that they can get fully credentialed and continue working for the district.
Whaley said he continues to interview applicants for open positions and hopes a few new teachers will be hired and join the staff during the winter break.
Whaley said the district also continues to do as much outreach as it can at universities and other programs to show prospective teachers that the district can offer a stable career option.
Whaley said events like the Teach Conference definitely help bring a local awareness to the teacher shortage. In fact, he said the district brought on a few WHCL students to be tutors and hopes they become interested in continuing teaching.
The Teach Conference will include panels, networking opportunities and a chance to speak with representatives from universities with teaching programs. Information will also be presented about WHCL’s teacher prep transfer programs and Team Teach teacher preparation program.
“Those who attend this conference will walk away knowledgeable about the many career opportunities available in the field of education and with an understanding of the steps and resources available to prepare them to enter education,” Preston said. “Beyond that, we also hope to provide inspiration and our support for anyone who wants to become an educator through this event.”