HAYS, Kan. -- Enrollments are rising, teachers are retiring and schools across the country are struggling to fill classroom vacancies. Experts predict the nation will need more than 2 million new teachers in the next decade, and with Kansas ranking No. 41 in teacher salaries, the crisis hits close to home.
Fort Hays State University's College of Education and Technology is doing its part to address the situation before it's too late. Three years ago, FHSU joined 11 other colleges and universities across the state in a Kansas State Department of Education program designed to provide an alternative path to teaching licenses for secondary education candidates.
The program, Transition to Teaching (T2T), recruits and trains mid-career professionals seeking a career change. It uses the restricted teaching license and has an online professional education curriculum meeting all of the Kansas Professional Education Standards.
Of the 11 colleges involved, FHSU received four of the seven grants awarded by the KSDE to develop online course material. Fort Hays State faculty members developed Planning for Instruction, Understanding the Learner, Reflective Practice and Understanding the Foundations of Education.
"The college has been involved with this program since its inception," said Dr. Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education and Technology. "Our expertise in professional education coursework and distance delivery were evident as course development grants were awarded."
FHSU has 65 students involved in the restricted licensure program; 49 of them enrolled this year.
"More students are becoming involved because they're aware of the rising teacher shortage and want to help," said Mercer.
Subjects include math, science, business, physical education, technology, art, English, Spanish, journalism and history.
Students must have a bachelor's degree -- or the content equivalent in a recognized teaching field -- and have a job offer from a school district. They also must successfully complete all coursework and pass required exams provided by FHSU.
According to the National Education Association, quality mentoring programs for all first-year teachers are vitally important. Mentoring enables them to learn "best practices" from seasoned professionals.
FHSU provides a university supervisor offering on-site support throughout the program, and the district provides a mentor within the building.
To learn more about the T2T program, contact Mercer at (785)628-5828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.