10 Ways to Recruit Teachers.
The need for teachers in the United States has become very real--and in some cases drastic. State education departments and school districts are offering hiring bonuses, paying off student loans and posting job openings on high-traffic Web sites--and these include jobs in areas that traditionally have had plenty of candidates, like English and social studies. But career and technical education courses often are electives, and if administrators can't find the qualified teachers they need for classes in family and consumer sciences or marketing, for example, they're liable to close these programs altogether. Imagine how a trend like that could affect the future workforce.
Now, more than ever, it's crucial that educators do their part to recruit the career and technical education teachers of the future. Whether you're a high school teacher, counselor, community college instructor or teacher educator, you can help make sure that years from now there will be enough quality teachers to continue the important work of educating youth for successful professional lives. Here are 10 ways to do that.
1 Talk to teens. High school students who excel in their own career and technical coursework and those who express an interest in teaching are prime candidates. Nurture their interests by talking to them about why and how you pursued a teaching career. You can help them get more information from the school counselor, career center or the Internet. Student officers in vocational student organizations (VSOs) are especially good candidates because they have the enthusiasm for the field and the leadership skills that make for great teachers. Get teacher educators from neighboring colleges and universities and their graduate students to speak at local and state VSO meetings about careers in teaching. Also pitch the speaking idea to veteran high school teachers who will be retiring soon. They may find inspiration in securing their own replacements. Contact your state association about starting a recognition program for teachers who successfully recruit future teachers or serve as mentors.
2 Search from within. Recruiting within a college or university also can be a source of teacher education students. Get a list of the undecided or general studies students from the campus career counseling center, contact them and invite them to an informational session. Or mail students a flyer that directs them to a Web site the college has set up to provide information about the teacher education program. Other potential recruits are undergraduates in majors related to career and technical education, like agricultural sciences and nursing. Encourage these students to work toward a minor or other option in education that includes meeting the requirements for a teaching license.
3 Seek counsel. Open the lines of communication with campus career counselors. They are a valuable link to nontraditional students, particularly those adults who have returned to school to pursue a career change. Their previous work and life experiences may make them ideal candidates. Make sure the campus counselors know about the demand for teachers in career and technical education. Invite them to the informational sessions you have for potential teacher education students. Or offer a presentation especially for the counseling staff on teaching opportunities in career and technical education. Provide them with brochures and other promotional materials to share with prospective students.
4 Find those on the fence. There are a fair number of undergraduate seniors who still are not sure what their next step will be. Some are considering graduate school but haven't made up their minds and don't know all their options. Mail informational flyers to seniors at surrounding colleges and universities. Set up visits to senior seminar classes by contacting professors or counselors at the college. Share information about the demand for teachers and encourage them to begin a master's degree plus teaching licensure program in a field of career and technical education related to their undergraduate major.
5 Talk among yourselves. Have you considered recruiting the people you work with who are not in teaching positions? Some may be support staff, program coordinators or classroom assistants or aides. Perhaps your department office manager would make the perfect business education teacher. Maybe the university landscape manager is interested in teaching about horticulture. Many of these co-workers have completed college coursework, and most have associate's degrees in a technical field. Sometimes the employing school district, college or university provides tuition reimbursement for a certain number of courses as a job benefit. Talk to these colleagues about a career in teaching and provide information about their options--further schooling or, in some cases, alternative certification.
6 Take on tech prep. Community colleges that already are working with neighboring colleges and universities through tech prep articulation agreements are prime recruiting territories. Tech prep efforts have built strong relationships between secondary and post-secondary programs. It is important for colleges and universities to join in this partnership to develop options for students, including those who would be excellent candidates for teaching careers. Fostering close relationships between community college and higher education programs can increase enrollment at both levels and enhance the career options for the students they serve.
7 Seek military intelligence. The decrease in military personnel that followed the end of the Cold War resulted in another pool of potential teachers. Forced retirements and base closures have many former members of the armed services looking for second careers. Often their military work included teaching occupational skills to young adults, so the transition to career and technical education would be smooth. The Troops to Teachers program (www.troops.org), launched by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1994, works with state education departments, school districts and teacher education programs to prepare former military personnel for the classroom and facilitate their career transition.
8 Extend your offer. Remember your local Cooperative Extension Service (CES)? Some state and county governments have reduced these agencies, but many continue to provide consumer help. CES agents, especially those who specialize in agriculture and family and consumer sciences matters, are good candidates for a parallel career shift. In addition to the personal rewards that come with teaching, CES employees also may find a teacher's traditional work schedule attractive, which (depending on the position) could mean fewer weekend, evening and summer hours. Many CES employees also may have earned teaching licensure through their undergraduate programs. However, others would need additional teacher education and technical courses in the desired subject area.
9 Find the job seekers. Many businesses throughout the country continue to downsize. Contact outplacement personnel and employment service agencies for information about the skills and career interests of displaced employees. Depending on their area of expertise, these individuals could make excellent additions to the career and technical education teaching force. These agencies often have information on people who are interested in changing careers, too. In some cases, government employee benefits include tuition reimbursement for pursuing a teaching career.
10 Use distance learning. Because many career and technical teacher education programs have closed in recent years, fewer institutions must share the job of preparing teachers. These remaining programs must serve more students, many of whom are far from campus. Distance learning technology, like two-way audio and video instruction at various sites and Web-based courses, allows schools to make their programs more convenient and therefore more attractive. However, the cost of technology can be prohibitive for some institutions. Developing partnerships with other teacher education institutions, state education departments and school districts can help support distance education programs. If you already have a distance teacher education program or plan to start one soon, make sure to advertise it through neighboring community colleges, school districts and in local newspapers. If you'd like to share your own successful teacher recruiting strategies or have luck with one or more of these, let your colleagues know by sending an e-mail to Techniques Editor Marlene Lozada, email@example.com.
RELATED ARTICLE: ONCE YOU'VE GOT THEM, KEEP THEM
Once you've recruited students into career and technical teacher education programs or gotten new teachers into the classroom, your job has just begun. Your goal is to enhance their job satisfaction and success so they stay in the field or major. Here are some strategies for doing that.
To retain teacher education majors:
* Make sure students are getting quality academic counsel from advisers. This is very important if your students are going to stick with their program of study. Set high standards for student and faculty advisers and reward good work with merit increases. Institute an outstanding adviser award in your program or department based on student recommendations.
* Help students feel like they belong. Student organizations can build cohesiveness and collegiality between advisers and undergraduate and graduate students who are preparing for teaching careers. Encourage students to join professional organizations such as the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). If they meet the criteria, students can join ACTE for only $10 a year. Organize a few team-building fund-raisers and you can help send students to regional and national conferences. Social activities--like tailgating parties at football games and evening pizza parties--also can help increase overall student involvement.
* Get students into the local schools. Reinforce your students' decision to become teachers by arranging their participation in VSO activities at local high schools where they can speak about their career choice. A teacher education program can "adopt" a school and arrange for students to work in the classroom regularly. Develop opportunities for students to speak about teaching careers at their hometown high schools during college breaks.
To retain new teachers:
* Keep in touch. Teacher educators and school system administrators should collaborate to make the orientation and initial experiences of career and technical teachers as positive as possible. Nurturing new teachers can be as simple as regular e-mail contact with their advisers and listserves of student teaching colleagues to compare experiences and share ideas during the first year of teaching.
* Establish a network of mentors. Mentors are critical in helping new teachers learn the ropes and become familiar with responsibilities. School administrators and teacher educators can help facilitate mentoring relationships by helping match new teachers with experienced teachers in their local areas.
* Help form a peer support group. A peer support group gives the novice teacher a comfortable forum for sharing successes and frustrations. State professional organizations can help organize regional groups within or across career and technical teaching fields. If distance makes it difficult to meet in person, electronic discussion groups also can provide an effective forum for supportive communications. --D.S.
Daisy Stewart is a teacher educator in vocational and technical education at Virginia Tech's College of Human Resources and Education in Blacksburg. She also is a past president of the Association for Career and Technical Education.