Long Island school district combating teacher shortage with grow-your-own program

BALDWIN, N.Y. — The nation’s teacher shortage is spawning some creative solutions.

One school district in Nassau County is getting students, as young as eighth grade, interested in teaching careers.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, it’s a new form of grow your own.

They are teaching the next generation of teachers in high school. Future educators are getting a head start.

“I know that this is where I’m going to be happy and this is where I am going to make my difference in the world,” 11th grader Samantha Cruz said.

Cruz enrolled in the Baldwin School District’s Education Academy, a unique program that offers electives starting in eighth grade, stimulating interest in teaching and helping achieve it.

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The 120 young people enrolled student-teach in the district and take courses, in partnership with Molloy University, where the future educators can enter as sophomores.

“These teacher academies serve to grow your own, have this kind of building-from-within the community. So, it really feels like a calling for them,” said Dr. Linda Kraemer, professor of education at Molloy University.

It’s considered an innovative approach to a crisis.

“Nationwide, we are seeing a critical shortage of teachers. There are school systems in rural communities that started the school year with empty classrooms,” said Dr. Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin School District.

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In New York, demand is outpacing the supply, as 180,000 new teachers are needed in the next decade amid a flood of retirements.

The shortage has been driven by low salaries and morale.

Camhi said by starting them young, “I think we fix two things at once. We not only increase the pool of very talented teachers, but we also increase the diversity of the teaching profession, and I can’t think of two more important things. we need to do.”

Students say they’re not deterred by low morale. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They’re learning how essential great teachers are.

“They are part of preparing our next generation to vote, to know about our government, know how our government works, be engaged in politics, which are all important things in our society right now,” 11th grader Brendan Kaminski said.

District officials said they are eager to welcome back Molloy graduates as new teachers.

Camhi, who is also president of AASA, the national school superintendents association, said teacher shortages are not as severe on Long Island as elsewhere in the nation, due to higher salaries. However, there are local shortages in many fields and instances of poaching of teachers from one district by another.

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