Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Editorial: Next wave of teachers already here

| June 22, 2022 1:00 AM

The number of statewide teacher vacancies — roughly 700 — isn’t alarming. In fact, that’s a reasonable number based on recent years.

What has the State Board of Education sweating, though, is that the typical queue of applicants simply hasn’t materialized. The board is hearing from parts of the state where multiple openings have drawn a total of zero aspiring teachers.

Put that on your chalkboard and ponder it.

While it’s true that teacher pay in Idaho isn’t anything to brag about, its average has climbed significantly to $53,100 for K-12, plus an increasingly impressive benefits package. It’s also true that money isn’t the only reason people are drawn to or repulsed by certain professions. If teachers have been beaten and badgered more than in the past few years, we can’t remember it.

Yet it’s one of the world’s most honorable callings. Most of you can read this editorial because of passionate, professional teachers who got through to you.

The state board isn’t merely wringing its hands and bemoaning the threats to public education in Idaho. They’re exploring nontraditional ways to put qualified people at the head of many classrooms.

One of the most exciting is the brainchild of Tennessee, which has reported success with its teacher apprenticeship program. Selected applicants without a four-year degree or teacher certification are apprenticed — and paid for it — until certain standards are met. This might be met with cold stares from traditionalists, but if public education is going to thrive in this rapidly changing world, it’s going to need to break with some long-standing traditions.

You likely know people who don’t hold a teaching certificate but would make outstanding teachers. These individuals might also eventually help bridge political and social divides in communities because their track to the head of a classroom could come less from a college or university and more from real-world work experience.

Local employers will tell you that it’s exceedingly hard to recruit professionals from outside because of North Idaho’s exorbitant housing costs. One way to help fix any teacher shortages would be to grow your own.

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