By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
As an elementary school teacher in Central Oregon for nearly a decade, Rachel Schuetz knows firsthand how difficult the job can be.
“Oversized classes is always something we had to work through,” said Schuetz, the senior instructor and elementary education program lead at OSU-Cascades.
The good news is that school districts across the state are planning to use funds from the Student Success Act to reduce class sizes.
But smaller class sizes means that more teachers will be needed, something that may prove to be a problem in the near future.
“Oregon is facing a teacher shortage coming up. In the next three years we’re looking anticipating up to 33 percent of the workforce retiring so local districts have reached out to us and informed us that they’re looking at a hiring shortage,” Schuetz said.
To address the future shortage, OSU-Cascades kicked off an undergraduate elementary education degree in conjunction with C-O-C-C, that will allow students to become licensed elementary school teachers in four years.
“We’ve had the early childhood education program for years, and the K-12 system does not require a master’s degree right now for entry level teachers so they will be able to take their first two years with us if they’d like and then two years at OSU and then be able to start applying for those jobs,” Paradis said.
The program isn’t just hoping to fill in the gaps of Oregon’s future teacher shortage, it’s also hoping to increase teacher diversity, providing students with educators who more closely align with underrepresented students.
“By increasing the ease of access into a four year program we’re hoping to attract a lot of teachers and hopefully match the way our students are seeing teachers in the classroom that have their background, possibly their linguistic and racial diversity,” Schuetz said.
In their senior year, students in the program will choose between three specializations: English as a second language, Special Education or STEM.
“Those are all recommendations from different schools.” Schuetz said. “We worked with six districts around Central Oregon and after communicating with the principals they said these are the background areas we’d like teachers to have a little more expertise in.”
The current cohort consists of about 20 students. In four years, Schuetz hopes to have 120-125 teachers at each stage of the four year program.
“There’s been a lot of across the state, community, colleges and universities coming together to increase the pipeline, especially for diverse candidates and to make the dream of becoming a teacher a reality.”