COVID-19 has caused disruptions in every professional sphere, but the one that has likely been hit the hardest is the teaching industry.
The nationwide shortage of teachers has resulted in the creation of short-term solutions to keep schools running, such as shortened in-person class time and encouraging retired teachers to return to their old positions.
However, there’s evidence to show that Grand Valley State University’s education programs are growing and preparing a new generation of teachers for the workplace.
Switching from online to in-person learning, dealing with heightened expectations and little to no increase in compensation during the pandemic has left many teachers burnt out and ready to leave their careers in education.
According to a recent study of 2,700 teachers conducted by the National Education Association, 32% reported the pandemic caused them to leave their position earlier than planned.
In addition to this, 25% teachers surveyed in 2021 said they were likely to quit their jobs, mainly due to mode of education and health reasons.
Despite the difficulties present in the teaching industry, many students are motivated to work in schooling.
Senior Sarah Spencer said she plans to continue her education into graduate school to become a professor of writing.
“I decided on pursuing a career in higher education because I want to help students discover their potential as writers, the same way I did as I went through school,” Spencer said. “I want to be able to uncover students’ passions and help them gain confidence in expressing themselves.”
GVSU’s teaching programs have experienced an increase in students as well, specifically those looking for a career in P-12 education.
Dr. Amy Schelling, Associate Dean and Director of Teacher Education, credits the pandemic as one of the reasons for this rise in enrollment.
“I think the recent interest might be attributed to the attention that’s been given to P-12 education in schooling and the work of teachers during the pandemic,” Schelling said. “There’s been a real spotlight on the profession and what it takes to do it.”
In addition to the attention the career has received during the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth of GVSU’s teaching program can also be attributed to its reputation in the Grand Rapids and West Michigan areas.
Potential employers said they are often impressed by the experience, tenacity and passion exhibited by recent graduates of the program, Schelling said.
“The candidates that graduate from Grand Valley are highly thought of and highly sought after in our P-12 community,” Schelling said. “We’ve had multiple districts say they could not have done their ‘Return-to-Learn’ plan without our partnerships and help from our students.”
Although it appears that there will be a resurgence of the teaching profession, Schelling said it is becoming increasingly important to take steps towards keeping teachers from becoming mentally and physically exhausted.
“The solution has to come through restructuring the way we view and support our educators,” Spencer said. “Our government has to allocate resources to our teachers to support the way the profession is changing, especially in our current world of virtual and hybrid education.”
While the teacher shortage remains a pressing issue nationwide, GVSU students are working hard to become the next generation of educators.