- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - The University of Northern Colorado has watched enrollment in its teacher-preparation programs drop amid a nationwide educator shortage.

Now, the university that built its reputation building teachers is fighting back, the Tribune (https://tinyurl.com/hhyaq8k) reported. It is recruiting high school students, partnering with other institutions and improving its offerings.

Nearly a quarter of teacher graduates in Colorado come from UNC, once known as Colorado State Teacher’s College. Since 2010, enrollment in its teacher programs went from nearly 4,000 in 2011 to 2,900 last year. The state is expected to graduate only 2,000 teachers next year, and it needs twice that amount, education officials said.

In other industries, a shortage of workers might lead to higher pay. That’s not the case in teaching, given constraints on public spending, said Eugene Sheehan, dean of UNC’s College of Education. Concerns over pay, mandatory testing and bureaucracy create stress that Sheehan says are noted by high school students who otherwise might be interested in the profession.

“They’re seeing the teacher, and if they’re perceiving that teaching is overly stressful, then the career isn’t necessarily as attractive,” Sheehan said.

But some high school students are interested. UNC has for the last three years hosted events for participants in the Colorado’s Teacher Cadet program, which tries to steer high school students to teaching careers. UNC has seen the numbers of cadets its hosts grow from 40 to 150 to 300.

UNC also has been working with the Colorado School of Mines, known for its engineering and math programs. For the last few years, Mines students interested in teaching have been able to take about half their classes at Mines and the other half at UNC fulfilling teaching requirements. UNC helps get those Mines students into some of the hardest-to-fill positions as secondary school math and science teachers.

UNC has spent more than $100,000 in the past five years upgrading technology to make its program more attractive. Some faculty members believe the university should spend more, Sheehan said.

UNC recently revamped its education technology program to better align with what future teachers will be expected to know.

All to attract young people to a profession Sheehan said is rewarding despite the challenges.

“You get to see the light bulbs go on,” he said. “You get to see yourself making a meaningful difference in kids’ lives.”

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Information from The Tribune (Greeley, Colorado): www.greeleytribune.com

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