Last year, our nation’s teacher preparation programs produced over 300,000 newly minted professional educators. However, over 500,000 left, for a variety of reasons according to Richard Ingersoll, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading scholar on the nation’s teacher workforce.
Among the reasons driving out teachers are salaries and increasing pressure to deliver higher student achievement.
Scott Downs, SUSD’s assistant superintendent for administrative services, notes that there are significant concerns and challenges when it come to teacher recruitment and retention across the nation. Sahuarita Unified School District is taking a proactive and innovative approach in the recruitment of highly skilled professional educators.
In collaboration with the University of Arizona, the District has launched the Sahuarita Teaching Fellows Program. The goal of the program is to identify local high school students, college students and post-baccalaureates who are interested in teaching.
Together, Sahuarita Unified School District and the UA College of Education are dedicated to building a shared commitment of training, program development, mentoring, and the induction of new teachers.
“If we can get to the students in high school who are interested in becoming teachers and we find that they’ve declared education as their focus at the UA, we can offer them stipends along the way, selecting them as Sahuarita Teaching Fellows with an initial $1,000 stipend,” Downs said.
“It’s getting these students who are serious about teaching embedded into our SUSD culture by offering them financial incentives and getting them the experience of working in the district.”
Sahuarita USD and UA are leading the way in teacher recruitment. Sahuarita Teaching Fellows garners the attention of high-achieving high school and college students and accomplished career changers, and transforming them into dedicated teachers, diversifying local teacher talent pipelines and bringing great teachers to the students. The program is designed to help future teachers to feel part of the organization before they sign their first contract.
If students are accepted into the UA College of Education Sahuarita Teaching Fellows, complete their student teaching at Sahuarita Unified School District, are hired by the District, and complete 3 contracted years of teaching in the District, they can potentially receive stipends amounting to $4,800.
“Our current era presents critical challenges in regards to identifying and retaining the highest caliber professional educators to serve our students. Solutions will need to include new ways of thinking, strategic alignments, and intentional action steps and outcomes. The Sahuarita Teaching Fellows (STF) initiative is a partnership with the University of AZ that uses our collective professional skills, common goals, resources, and expertise to build internal capacity, develop highly effective programs, produce highly qualified and student centered educators, and provide them the support needed to promote excellence and success for our students,” states Manuel Valenzuela, Superintendent for Sahuarita Unified School District.