The fall 2022 academic year is just over the horizon, and for me, the anticipation and excitement of the new year is palpable. I am cautiously optimistic in the face of much uncertainty and looming challenges. No doubt, this is a challenging time to consider becoming a teacher. The pandemic, our political climate, and Uvalde have exacerbated the critical teacher shortage in Virginia and nationally. In the College of Education (COE) at the University of Mary Washington, we are doing everything we can to help our K-12 school partners get qualified teachers in place. I am both proud and excited to share about the work we are doing in the COE to help address the shortage.
A common thread running through these initiatives is teacher preparation that is more contextualized and connected to practice. As a COE, we have a symbiotic relationship with our public-school partners; our ability to prepare teachers is contingent upon the success of the schools where we work. While our school partners are struggling on many fronts, we are working closely with them to help improve teaching and learning as we engage in collaborative teacher preparation. Details about a number of those efforts are offered below.
We will initiate professional development school (PDS) partnerships in five elementary schools this semester with intentional practicum and intern placements, and faculty serving as university facilitators. These partnerships will be collaboratively developed focused on mutually beneficial clinical experience, professional development, and contextualized inquiry. On a second front, the Pathways to Excellence (PTE) program begins its 7th year focused on capacity building for mentorship in partner schools in the region. We know that effective mentorship helps improve teacher retention, and teacher preparation. Trained mentors serve as “Clinical Faculty” for COE students completing internships while also providing induction support for new teachers. This mutually beneficial collaboration is expanding its reach in collaboration with the state-wide MentorVA initiative, and should improve teacher retention in the area. This is one more way we are making a positive difference in the area.
We continue to focus our recruitment efforts on Teachers for Tomorrow programs (TFT). TFT is a curriculum for high school students interested in becoming teachers. For our first TFT Summer Institute in July 22, we hosted 20 TFT high school students for a week-long residential program to nurture and develop knowledge and skills of the teaching profession. Students came from 11 different school divisions and 15 different high schools. This initiative should shine a powerful light on the high-quality teacher preparation at the University of Mary Washington, while also helping to address the chronic teacher shortage in the region.
In the face of our many challenges, I am deeply grateful to have Seacobeck Hall as a facility for teacher preparation. With classrooms, collaboration spaces, and learning laboratory areas intentionally designed for teacher preparation, there is no other facility like it in Virginia. It is a powerful tool for recruiting, and for high quality teacher preparation. Stop by when you are in the neighborhood – I would love to show you around.
In these ways and others, the COE is deeply committed to being an important contributing partner in the P-16 educational environment in the region. Our school-based partners face significant challenges in recruiting qualified teachers able to meet the needs of our students. We have an obligation to do what we can to help, and I am proud of the work we are doing on this front. Many thanks to you all for your support of the work that we do.
Dr. Pete Kelly
Professor & Dean
College of Education
University of Mary Washington