In the face of a teacher shortage in Georgia, Georgia Southern University’s College of Education is emerging as a catalyst for innovation.

According to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, 82 percent of schools in the state report a lack of educators, and 20 percent of teachers are considering leaving the profession within the next five years. Alisa Leckie, Ph.D., assistant dean for partnerships and outreach in Georgia Southern’s College of Education, says the need for fresh, practical solutions is urgent.

“I regularly field requests for our teacher candidates from all different sizes of school systems, from our large Savannah-Chatham schools to small rural counties,” said Leckie. “School systems want to make sure that they are getting access to future teachers as soon as possible with the hope of of encouraging them to teach there when they graduate.”

To address this need, Leckie said Georgia Southern is pioneering initiatives that not only address the shortage but also ensure that its graduates are ready to excel in the classroom.

One such initiative is a paid residency program that began several years ago in partnership with Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. This program allows teacher candidates to gain practical experience while receiving a stipend and benefits. This makes education accessible for students who might otherwise struggle to have the financial freedom or family responsibilities to fulfill their full-time student-teaching requirements. The impact of this program has been profound, with many COE students who might not have been able to complete their teaching program now thriving in their roles as educators. The paid residency program has expanded to Bulloch County in 2022 and the first cohort of paid residents will begin in Liberty County in the fall of 2023

Georgia Southern’s College of Education is also breaking new ground with its teacher certification pathways for paraprofessionals. Recognizing the unique skills and experiences these largely adult learners bring to the classroom, the college has worked with school system partners to create tailored programs that enable paraprofessionals to earn their teaching certification. Leckie said this initiative will expand the pool of potential teachers and provide opportunities for those already committed to education to further their careers.

Furthermore, the College is pioneering a ‘return to home’ option for student teaching. This initiative is particularly beneficial for rural school system partners who often struggle to recruit future educators due to their distance from universities or colleges of education.

“We have been working with more of our rural school system partners that are farther away to place our student teachers back at home for their student teaching semester,” Leckie explained.

This innovative approach not only supports students but also helps rural schools attract and retain talent. The success stories from this program are numerous, with many students expressing gratitude for the opportunity to teach in their home communities.

In addition to these initiatives, two professors at Georgia Southern, Kathleen Crawford, Ed.D., and Courtney Toledo, have started a local group called New Teachers Anonymous. This group provides an opportunity for teachers in the first-through-third years of their careers to ask for advice, share concerns and build relationships with other new teachers. By providing ongoing support and a community for new teachers, the College is helping to ensure that these educators can successfully navigate the early years of their careers, contributing to teacher retention. The group has been a lifeline for many new teachers, offering them a safe space to discuss challenges and celebrate successes.

Innovation at Georgia Southern extends beyond these programs. The College has established a residential learning community on campus to engage students interested in education from their first day. Leckie said this early engagement strategy fosters a sense of belonging and commitment to the teaching profession. The community offers a range of activities and opportunities, from mentorship programs to workshops on classroom management, all designed to prepare students for a successful career in education.

“We reach out and connect with those students who already think they might want to be educators,” said Leckie. “A lot can happen in their freshman and sophomore year if they don’t feel connected to us. We also reach out to multiple colleges and students on campus to get non-education majors able to see themselves as future educators.”

Georgia Southern’s College of Education is not just responding to the teacher shortage in Georgia, it’s reshaping the landscape of teacher education. Through its innovative initiatives, the College is ensuring that its graduates are not only ready to enter the classroom but are also prepared to excel.

“We’re really producing high-quality educators,” said Leckie. “I supervise many of these students, and I would not hesitate to put my children in their classrooms.”

With these initiatives and more, Georgia Southern University is committed to addressing the teacher shortage in Georgia. By removing barriers to education, providing support for new teachers, and fostering a sense of community among its students, the College of Education is making a significant impact on the future of education in the state.

Doy Cave is the Marketing Content Manager at Georgia Southern University



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