“There’s a teacher pipeline problem pretty much nationally. It’s pretty acute in North Carolina,” Dean Ellen McIntyre of the Cato College of Education at UNC Charlotte says in the accompanying video.
The shortage is particularly pronounced in special education, as well as the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math – and especially high school physics and chemistry. There’s also a shortage of teachers of color, who McIntyre notes can make a difference for all students.
“We’re on a mission to recruit more teachers of color – as well as anybody who can touch the life of a kid,” she says.
McIntyre sees a variety of reasons for the decline, starting with negative media portrayals of the job.
“The other thing is we don’t invest enough in our teachers,” she says. “It’s not what keeps teachers – it’s not even what motivates teachers to go in it. But it can make a difference when we have a teacher on the cusp – when I’m deciding between teaching or another career – and a little bit of extra money might make a difference.”
Parents also play a role.
“When we talk to young people about teaching, they think a salary of $35,000 sounds like a lot of money for starting pay. But their parents are the ones who know better … and we often find that it’s parents who are dissuading young people from going into teaching,” McIntyre says.
In an age of multiple careers, McIntyre encourages students to commit to five to 10 years of teaching.
She finds encouragement in the restoration of the NC Teaching Fellows, which starting next year will offer forgivable loans to students who commit to teaching in STEM fields and special education.
“That’s huge, because what we find is that there are a number of young people who come from working-class families where college is really a stretch to afford it. But if they get a scholarship, they’re thrilled to get to become a teacher and then pay back the state with five years of teaching,” McIntyre says.
“Scholarships are huge, but we have to have some other ideas as well,” she says. “We’ve got to begin to recruit early. And we’ve got to be really positive about the rewards of teaching, and about what a career in education can look like and the many opportunities.”