Al­covy tack­les teacher short­age

The Covington News - - LOCAL - DUANE M. FORD [email protected]­

There is statewide con­cern about the teach­ing work­force. In fu­ture years, will Ge­or­gia have enough qual­i­fied teach­ers? It will if Al­covy High School and teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion in­struc­tor Richard Cormier have their way.

The Ge­or­gia Part­ner­ship for Ex­cel­lence in Ed­u­ca­tion (GPEE) re­cently re­leased a re­port, “Top Ten Is­sues to Watch in 2017,” which sum­ma­rized the rea­sons peo­ple are con­cerned about the teach­ing work­force. Ge­or­gia’s post-sec­ondary teacher prepa­ra­tion pro­grams ex­pe­ri­enced a 35 per­cent en­roll­ment de­cline from 2010 to 2015. Thirteen per­cent of Ge­or­gia’s newly hired teach­ers quit af­ter their first year and 44 per­cent leave dur­ing their first five years. These ob­ser­va­tions have led state of­fi­cials to con­ducted high-level re­views and to make state pol­icy changes aimed at ad­dress­ing these is­sues.

But a more grass­roots prob­lem ex­ists. GPEE wrote, “Most trou­bling, when asked if they would en­cour­age one of their own stu­dents to con­sider teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion, over 66 per­cent of re­spon­dents [to a 2015 sur­vey] said, it was un­likely or highly un­likely.”

Cormier added, “Ac­cord­ing to the Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion of the States, na­tion­ally only 12% of high school stu­dents are plan­ning for a ca­reer in ed­u­ca­tion and the trend con­tin­ues to drop.” This is the prob­lem Cormier and Al­covy High want to change, at least in their school.

Two years ago Al­covy High started the teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion ca­reer path­way within the school’s ca­reer, tech­ni­cal, and agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion (CTAE) pro­gram. It is the only such pro­gram within the New­ton County School Sys­tem (NCSS).

The Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion path­way cur­ricu­lum was adopted and Cormier was brought on board to teach it.

Cormier is pas­sion­ate about teach­ing and his pro­gram. His per­sonal motto is “teach­ers make every­one” and his plea to all who will lis­ten is “please don’t dis­suade chil­dren from be­com­ing ed­u­ca­tors.”

The path­way in­cludes three classes, which Cormier and his stu­dents re­fer to as “lev­els.” The level I class, ex­am­in­ing the teach­ing pro­fes­sion, was first of­fered in 2015-2016. It in­cludes an in­tro­duc­tion to the var­i­ous ca­reer paths within ed­u­ca­tion, the his­tory of U.S. pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, the pro­fes­sional prac­tices and stan­dards of teach­ers, as well as ba­sic teach­ing meth­ods and strate­gies.

This year, the level II class, con­tem­po­rary is­sues in ed­u­ca­tion, and a Fu­ture Ge­or­gia Ed­u­ca­tors Club were added.

Kia Kil­gore, a ju­nior at Al­covy High, serves as pres­i­dent for the stu­dent club and was re­cently named the NCSS ed­u­ca­tion path­way 2017 stu­dent of the year. “There are cur­rently about 12 mem­bers and our fo­cus has been on talk­ing to stu­dents who want to be teach­ers and ex­plor­ing the pro­fes­sion,” she said. “It’s all about pro­mot­ing teach­ing.”

In the level II class stu­dents learn about how na­tional, state, and lo­cal morals, com­mu­ni­ties, and poli­cies shape schools and the teach­ing pro­fes­sion. The level II stu­dents also are go­ing into other NCSS schools to do ob­ser­va­tions on var­i­ous as­pects of teach­ing. “They have spe­cific ques­tions to an­swer and things that they need to ob­serve,” said Cormier. “We are work­ing with the coun­selor at Heard-Mixon Ele­men­tary School to get my stu­dents cer­ti­fied as men­tors. I en­vi­sion a ‘big brother/ big sis­ter’ sit­u­a­tion where they meet once a week with their mentees and help with what­ever they need.”

A high­light for this year is a con­nec­tion Cormier has de­vel­oped with his alma mater, the School of Ed­u­ca­tion at North­ern Michi­gan Univer­sity (NMU) lo­cated on the coast of Lake Su­pe­rior in Mar­quette, Michi­gan.

At the re­cent CTAE Awards Cer­e­mony, Tim Schmitt, NCSS CTAE direc­tor, high­lighted this con­nec­tion say­ing, “Ear­lier this year, Mr. Cormier came up with a crazy idea, to tele­con­fer­ence into his class­room a group of North­ern Michi­gan col­lege stu­dents. They dis­cuss top­ics re­lated to teach­ing. His stu­dents are learn­ing to be­come cer­ti­fied teach­ers. The col­lege stu­dents that he joined forces with are stu­dents them­selves study­ing to be teach­ers. The in­ter­ac­tion is re­ally great. It’s amaz­ing to see the di­a­log be­tween the Al­covy stu­dents and the col­lege stu­dents. That idea has evolved into some­thing re­ally spe­cial.”

In May, Cormier and a group of his stu­dents will travel to Mar­quette to see what a col­lege-level school of ed­u­ca­tion is all about.

Next year, Al­covy High and Cormier will add the level III class, teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion in­tern­ship. Stu­dents in that class will, among other things, work in a class­room un­der the di­rec­tion and men­tor­ship of a cer­ti­fied teacher and en­gage in prac­tice teach­ing.

In May, Al­covy High will have a “fu­ture ed­u­ca­tor sign­ing day.” Mod­eled af­ter ath­letic sign­ing days, it will be a cer­e­mony in which se­niors de­clare their in­tent to at­tend a col­lege-level teacher prepa­ra­tion pro­gram. Cormier ex­pects six or seven se­niors to par­tic­i­pate.

Duane Ford | The Cov­ing­ton News | The Cov­ing­ton News

Richard Cormier, teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion path­way in­struc­tor at Al­covy High School, ad­dresses his class.

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