The pandemic has exacerbated Maryland’s teacher shortage, a situation that had already been worsening for years.
A Maryland State Education Association report released in February showed that a large majority of Maryland teachers surveyed said staffing shortages, onerous workload and burnout were serious or very serious concerns, while that 60% said the pandemic made them more likely to leave the profession or retire. earlier than expected.
To address the problem, four universities in Maryland are working to recruit and train black male teachers, who make up just 2% of teachers nationwide. Meanwhile, in western Maryland, a school is preparing students to teach in rural areas.
Fueled by federal grants — and aware of the needs of their communities — Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Frostburg State University, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore have developed a range of programs to bolster the ranks of teachers across the state.
In 2019, the Bowie State Black Student and Teacher Research and Mentoring Center established the Black Male Teachers College, a program to expose black high school students to the profession and support those who want to become teachers. .
Bowie State also created a mentorship, networking, and professional development program called Scholar Fellows to support black undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students.
According to Lynne G. Long, chair of the school’s Department of Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development, Bowie State’s program to recruit students to become teachers of STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — has trained 45 paraprofessionals over the past three years.
Bowie State also seeks to train students to become early childhood education or special education teachers.
The school’s long-term goal is to create a four-year learning community to support black men in education at all levels.
“You want to have teachers who are culturally into relevant pedagogy, who will be able to deal with students,” Long said. “You want these teachers to stay, to engage with the kids. That’s what it’s about.
Coppin State University in Baltimore also offers a range of programs and projects designed to encourage black men to become teachers.
Since 2016, Coppin State has offered a federally funded Pathway to Professions program, which includes residencies, a leadership academy, and school day trips.
The Coppin State Center of Excellence in Education for Black Teachers, jointly operated with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and the Coppin Center for Inclusive Excellence both aim to prepare and expand a diverse workforce of teachers, depending on the school.
Coppin State also aims to build a national model to encourage the preparation of teachers from diverse backgrounds, said Yi-Ping Huang, a professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning who leads the recruitment and training programs. assistance to teachers.
Huang noted that Coppin State was founded as a teachers’ college in 1900, and teacher recruitment and training remain key parts of its mission.
“We need more teachers, we need better teachers,” Huang said. “We need teachers from diverse backgrounds to better prepare our next generations. … Our demographics are changing.
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore, meanwhile, is taking a three-pronged approach to recruiting more teachers, according to Hazel Professor of Education Richard Warren Jr., who leads the school’s Men of Color in Education program. .
“We know there’s a huge shortage of teachers,” Warren said. “We see it now more than ever. We have an aging teacher population, teacher attrition, retention issues. And COVID has exacerbated that.
UMES offers a program designed to encourage dual enrollment, in which students majoring in other fields also earn credits that can go toward a teaching certificate.
The school offers webinars and other events to inspire students to consider teaching as a profession. He also matches students with professionals and helps with licensing exams.
The third strand is the Man the Shore Network, a support group of about 40 men of color in education.
Progress in attracting black male teachers is not always steady, Warren said.
“There is no linear path,” he said. “Some times you feel like you’re making great progress, other times a curve comes and you don’t see how it’s going to fall into place.”
In Allegany County, western Maryland, educators at Frostburg State University train students to teach in rural areas.
Boyce C. Williams, dean of the school’s College of Education, said the shortage of rural teachers is a problem.
Like urban schools, rural schools struggle to attract teachers, who generally prefer to work in more affluent suburban areas, he said.
“The neediest kids usually have the least qualified teachers, and the most wanted school districts have the most qualified teachers,” Williams said. “Teachers can go to a rural school or an urban school, but once they get seniority or tenure, they go to Howard (county), they go to Montgomery.”
Frostburg programs include Maryland Accelerates, which offers a one-year master’s degree with an annual stipend of $30,000. After graduation, graduates teach in Frederick, Garrett, or Washington counties for three years.
When the program first launched in 2020, six students graduated. This year, 17 are expected to graduate in June, Williams said.