By LaKeshia Myers
American teachers are members of a dying breed. With fewer students entering schools of education, statisticians are certain that the teaching profession will be in dire straits within the next fifteen to twenty years.
While teacher shortages are a problem in districts across the country, it’s often low-income and minority students who are most affected by both shortages and under-prepared teachers.
Last week, Senators Dale Kooyenga, Lena Taylor and I introduced legislation aimed at curbing the shortage of classroom teachers in the state of Wisconsin. This legislation would help individuals who are degreed non-teaching professionals earn certification.
There are many paraprofessionals and substitute teachers who work with students on a daily basis and have the desire to become certified educators. What often hinders these individuals is a clause currently in state law that requires an education candidate to complete one semester (eighteen weeks) of student teaching—adhering to this timeline would mean paraprofessionals and substitutes could not work in paid status to have the hours count toward their student teaching mandate.
Under the proposed legislation, the current statute language would be expanded to allow paraprofessionals the opportunity to meet their student teaching requirement during their regular work day. They already work under the guidance of a certified teacher and they have access to students who need their help. This would not only be great opportunity for paraprofessionals, but also school districts, and our children.
It’s time we invest in growing our educators from within our ranks.