This post is part of ACTE’s Teach CTE campaign. For additional information or to contribute a post, please contact Dominique Frascoia.
The recruitment and retention of teachers are like two sides of the same coin. They are both equal in importance and interdependent; one not effective without the other. The value of teachers for society’s wellbeing is indisputable. And the pandemic has only bolstered the fact. This is why the current teacher shortage in Arizona is concerning. The lack of CTE teachers has already caused some schools to limit their offerings or close a program altogether. In this environment, revisiting recruitment and retention strategies is vital for CTE administrators.
Through grassroots efforts, the Professional Development department at West-MEC created a process to guide individuals from Industry to Education. The aim was to connect experienced professionals to teaching opportunities through the CTE teacher certification process. For three years our most efficacious recruitment method has been our free workshop called, ‘How to Become a CTE Teacher’, held several times a year. The attendees learn of the challenges and rewards of teaching, the process of being certified as a CTE teacher, and receive support if they choose to go forward. West-MEC’s partnership with the Arizona Department of Education’s Certification Unit is strong, and the workshop is how the CTED supports statewide teacher recruitment efforts.
We promote the workshop through various channels including social media. Word of mouth is powerful as we share about the workshop in regular PD courses and update CTE Directors across the state. The department sees a high return on the number of people who attend the informative session with more than 75 people attending or receiving coaching on the certification process. Two common misconceptions that attendees come with are: The need for a college degree to be certified to teach in Arizona, and the process to erase deficiencies once certified. The free interactive sessions help clarify misconceptions and share relevant information with interested individuals.
One of the main reasons for the success of the workshop is that staff at West-MEC follow up with attendees and help them through the process. We make sure to connect with participants and advise them on the next steps individually. The final aspect of the recruitment strategy is a database of certified teachers that we created to connect teachers to schools that have a need. Thus we maintain a continuous loop that brings in skilled industry personnel into the education system and links them to opportunities in Arizona’s schools.
While Professional Development aids in bringing qualified CTE teachers into the state, the Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) department works internally, encouraging teachers to stay long-term. The retention of teachers has been a focus at West-MEC since the beginning. Mentorship, training and incentives have helped us keep teachers with immense industry experience and teaching experience. C&I provides support from day one through the ‘Teacher Induction Academy’. In their first three to five years, instructors take courses for different areas of teaching, like classroom management, and receive badges for courses completed. After completing the series, teachers are encouraged to mentor new teachers and stay in touch with pedagogic methods. The department attends conferences to learn the best practices in teaching and shares them with teachers through regular workshops. By giving teachers the tools and resources, it helps them step into their classrooms confident and well prepared.
Apart from the training, C&I provides instructional specialists for teachers. The teachers are the content expert but the specialists help them navigate the different responsibilities they have on top of teaching which include creating and running a CTSO as an advisor, putting together an advisory council, along with school initiatives. While all are part of being a CTE teacher, specialists help them navigate this new terrain. The last part is feedback; we try to listen to teacher needs through efficacy surveys sent out four times a year. We also conduct learning walks and observations on all four campuses. The data collected informs and shapes our summer professional development classes. Thus, C&I provides support in multiple forms so as to provide a smooth transition from Industry into Education.
We have learned that one on one interaction is a powerful tool in effective recruitment and retention. While the need for teachers is pressing, the potential teachers to fill the lacune are present. By coming alongside potential instructors and helping them through the process we help CTE programs and schools in Arizona. By equipping, supporting and listening, we are successful in the retention and growth of CTE teachers in our school district.
Director of Professional Development, Joel Wakefield and the Director of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Laura Jamie at West-MEC