Jacob Garber: In search of one million teachers

As the educators of the Baby Boomer generation peter into retirement, a dark hole will grow in America’s teacher corps.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called on the imminent need for “1 million new great teachers” on “The Daily Show with John Stewart” Feb. 16 to replace the 50 percent of teachers expected to retire in the next decade.

According to Duncan, that is a staggering 1.8 million teachers leaving the field.

Clearly there is a dire need for more college-age students to take an interest in teaching, or the future of public education nationwide will be in peril.

And some of America’s future teachers might be part of GW’s undergraduate population right now, studying international affairs or business.

But these students should be able to, even at the undergraduate level, identify as aspiring teachers.

The University should offer curricular opportunities for undergraduates interested in the field of education. The Graduate School of Education and Human Development is the 35th-best education studies graduate program in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report. The undergraduate population is also teeming with potential teachers, evidenced by the increasing number of seniors who apply to Teach for America each year.

But how might undergraduates realize their passion for teaching if they can’t explore the field until they graduate?

It is not only practical but absolutely crucial that GSEHD partners with undergraduate academic programs.

Harvard College has already begun a popular and effective undergraduate program linked with its Graduate School of Education. The Undergraduate Teacher Education Program there provides undergraduates with four semester-long courses including psychology and curriculum planning in conjunction with the Graduate School of Education. It also has a practical portion consisting of 78 hours of classroom observation.

At the end of the program, UTEP students have the credentials to teach at public middle and elementary schools across the country. And, while the course load is light enough to fit in with an undergraduate schedule, it can count toward graduate credit if students go on to pursue a master’s degree in education.

GW has the educators and the students, and D.C. has dozens of schools in need of passionate undergraduates. If GSEHD teams up with the undergraduate curriculum, the University could feasibly replicate Harvard’s undergraduate education program.

The higher education administration faculty teaches undergraduate classes to draw interest in masters programs in higher education, Carol Kochhar-Bryant, the graduate school’s senior associate dean, said.

But that doesn’t combat the diminishing number of Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, and that is why a joint program with GSEHD is so crucial at GW.

Not everyone who wants to be a teacher knows it from the start.

This exposure at an undergraduate level to teaching and education might spark an interest in students and lead them to pursue it as a career path. Allowing GSEHD to team up with an undergraduate curriculum will allow students across the University to pursue a passion for teaching without necessarily committing to a master’s degree program in it.

Jacob Garber is a freshman majoring in English.

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