CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Schools across the Midstate are struggling with the teacher shortage crisis. Now, many educators are focused on finding solutions.
PA Needs Teachers hosted a summit in Cumberland County with the goal of learning more about solutions already working to address the shortage, including programs in Central PA.
“So currently there is a national teacher shortage…but it’s also affecting us regionally and within the district,” Susquehanna Township School District Superintendent Tamara Willis said.
Willis said she has got openings across her district, including in K-5, which was not as much of a problem before the pandemic.
“We definitely saw the need,” Susquehanna Township High School counselor Tessa Stockdale said.
Willis and Stockdale said they are finding solutions, including improving the Cadet Teaching Program, which gives high school seniors the chance to work in elementary school classrooms.
“They get real life, hands-on experience of what a classroom teacher does,” Stockdale said. “They love the teachers they’re with. They love the students that they’re working with.”
Many of those students go into teaching.
“We will hire them when they return after graduation,” Willis said, adding it is a benefit to current students to bring teachers back to their home district.
“It is actually an even better opportunity for our students because they get to see teachers who are familiar with the diversity in our district,” she said.
The district also helps students on the path to their degree, partnering with local colleges to offer dual enrollment, which the district pays for.
Willis and Stockdale shared the program’s success at a PA Needs Teachers Summit, along with other school districts and educators.
“We really targeted solutions that are scalable to other parts of the Commonwealth,” said Amy Morton, policy specialist for the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). NCEE is one of the co-chairs of the PA Needs Teachers coalition.
The summit focused on solutions that do not need legislation to work.
“When you have to wait for the General Assembly…it takes a long time,” Morton said.
Solutions like Capital Area Pathways to Teaching (CAPT). The program, run by the Capital Area Intermediate Unit (CAIU), offers online tracks to help people get their associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree.
“You’re not having to take off of work to do this program, and finances, meaning that that it’s supported by your employer,” said Andria Saia, executive director of CAIU.
Susquehanna Township is one school district that has participants in CAPT.
“We’re talking about how that pathway can be seamless from a student participant into CAPT, continue working for the district,” Saia said.
Saia added CAPT is just one of many solutions needed to solve the shortage.
“There’s no one size fits all and that every place is going to look towards a solution that fits them best,” she said.
PA Needs Teacher will pull together the ideas presented into a “solutions playbook” to help school districts develop their own programs. That report could come out as early as January.