Upstate College Hosting Recruitment Event

Addressing Teacher Shortage

Seth Stokes
February 21, 2018 - 9:21 am
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Anderson, SC - Ashlee Vanasse decided on a career as a teacher not because it's an in-demand field.

For her, it’s all about what she calls “those spark moments.”

“When working with students of any age, they come to a moment when they understand what you are saying, when it all clicks and they break out into this huge grin,” said Vanasse, a senior elementary education major at the Anderson University College of Education. “That moment is what makes every second of repeated instructions and classroom management worth it.”

Vanasse is entering a profession in flux. By all accounts, a shortage of teachers in South Carolina is reaching a point of crisis.

That’s why the timing of a teacher recruitment event at Anderson University is so crucial – and timely.

The College of Education at AU, in conjunction with the Career Planning and Professional Development Office, is hosting representatives from 40 school districts throughout the southeast in a networking event for nearly 100 students who will graduate this spring with degrees in education.

The event is scheduled for Feb. 26 at the G. Ross Anderson Student Center, beginning at 2 p.m.  

For Vanasse, it doesn’t hurt that she’s entering a profession she loves, from a school whose reputation is strong, at the precise moment school districts need eager educators.

“It’s thrilling to know (of the demand),” she said. “But that does not mean I shouldn’t worry about finding a job. It just means that during the upcoming networking event there will be many great positions that I’ll be competing for, and I hope to impress the principals and district leaders in attendance.”

That’s precisely the goal, AU officials say.

“This event will provide our students with an invaluable opportunity to build their professional network and interface with potential employers,” said Dr. Mark Butler, Dean of the College of Education at Anderson University. “Not only does it allow students to find out what the various districts offer, but it also provides the students the chance to become more comfortable meeting with professionals in their field.”

The ranks of those professionals are dwindling.

According to data from South Carolina’s Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement, nearly 7,000 teachers left their jobs at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 school year. While some now teach in other districts, about 5,000 left the professional ranks altogether.

And the problem is not limited to South Carolina. According to U.S. Department of Education data, close to eight percent of teachers nationwide leave the profession every year. What’s more, the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute reported that between 2009 and 2014, enrollment in education programs in colleges across the country fell by 35 percent.

That’s why representatives from school districts in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, along with South Carolina, will attend the Feb. 26 education networking event at AU.

“These districts are currently in the process of hiring for the 2018-2019 school year,” Dr. Butler said. “By providing this opportunity, many of our spring graduates will have the chance to expand their options in seeking their first teaching job. By inviting these districts to come on campus and meet our students, they will be able to make a more educated decision as to where they fit, both for their calling and their career.”

Butler oversees one of the most robust programs at AU. Bucking the national trend, the College of Education at AU is growing, and now boasts an enrollment of nearly 800 students in both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. That’s an increase of more than 57 percent from 10 years ago.

Vanasse, who hopes to begin her career in her hometown of Greenville, S.C., said that growth is fueled by the quality of AU’s programs and the dedication of its instructors. She said she’s seen first-hand how skilled professors, guided by a practical and rigorous curriculum, is preparing AU students to fill today’s teacher shortage.

“My professors asked me hard questions, and spent their time with me to answer any questions I had,” she said. “They poured into me in a way that made me want to show the same love and compassion they showed me to my future students.”

Anderson University is a selective comprehensive university offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees on campus and online. Anderson is ranked in the top tier of US News and World Report’s Best Regional Universities South, is among its Best Online Bachelor’s Programs and has been recognized as the #7 Most Innovative School among regional universities. It is also ranked as one of America’s “100 Best College Buys.”

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