Most people can name at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. And that’s no surprise. Educators are dedicated, hard-working professionals with a passion for enlightening and inspiring young minds. Their influence can last a lifetime, and outside of learning in the home, they represent the biggest impact on a student’s success.
Unfortunately, Arizona schools are facing a serious shortage of qualified teachers. In fact, four months into the 2017-18 school year, there remain thousands of vacancies at K-12 schools. That’s on top of the more than 3,000 positions that have been filled using candidates who lack a standard teaching certificate.
To help alleviate the shortage and get more highly trained teachers into our classrooms, Arizona’s three public universities (Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona) and the state’s community colleges have teamed up at Governor Doug Ducey’s request. The resulting Arizona Teachers Academy is an entirely new way of preparing Arizona’s next generation of teachers.
The Arizona Teachers Academy is particularly focused on helping to prepare educators for traditionally challenging areas, including rural and low-income schools. And because the program is available in diverse areas of the state, each university is empowered to help communities focus on their unique pathways to educator training, whether that be traditional teacher training, an advanced degree, or a route aimed at preparing members of the community to be educators.
But the best aspect for future educators is the financial upside – graduates of the Arizona Teachers Academy can commit to teach in an Arizona school to have their tuition and fees waived in exchange. Teachers in Arizona are the lowest paid in the nation, so graduating without student debt will be a boon to those participating.
The Arizona Teachers Academy launched this fall and has already enrolled hundreds of students. In a few short years, this cohort will enter the workforce and sit on the other side of the desk. They’ll be prepared to enlighten and inspire an entirely new generation.