As a new academic year gets underway, school districts across the nation are facing significant deficits in the number of educators available to staff classrooms. In Virginia, the commonwealth’s Department of Education reported last fall “more than 2,500 unfilled teaching positions across the state,” according to the Virginia Mercury, “and some divisions also reported a spike in departures at the end of the most current school year.”
In response to the crisis locally, “Hollins University is working with local school divisions to close the teacher shortage gap in the Roanoke region,” said Lorraine Lange, director of the Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning (MATL), and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies programs at Hollins.
Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) has joined with the Hollins Education Program to help teachers who hold a nonrenewable, three-year provisional license fulfill the requirements for full teaching licensure. Fall Term 2022 represents the second semester of the initiative.
“Hollins has been an invaluable partner to RCPS, tailoring instruction to our teachers’ needs so they in turn have the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of our students,” noted RCPS Superintendent Verletta White. “Coursework is completed in a cohort with other RCPS teachers, which allows them to build a community of support while learning and on the job. This is invaluable as we work to attract and retain highly qualified educators in our school division.” White said that the initiative is grant funded to ensure “there are no economic barriers to receiving teacher certification.”
Hollins is also collaborating with North Cross School in Roanoke to help a cohort of their teachers earn a graduate degree as part of their professional development. The teachers are working toward completing the MATL; the North Cross program will see its first graduate this fall with more teachers expected to earn their MATL degrees in May 2023. “Students in the program have the opportunity to work with accomplished faculty in the areas essential in today’s continually changing landscape of PreK-12 education: writing, inquiry, instructional design, assessment, leadership, technology, and contemporary issues in education,” Lange said.
Victor Lamas, assistant head of academics at North Cross, explained that the school’s partnership with Hollins “has allowed us to offer a rigorous MATL program and degree at a very affordable price for many of our teachers. It is one of the best professional development opportunities we have for our faculty.”
In 2021, Virginia Western Community College notified Lange that no instructors were available to teach mathematics in the dual enrollment (DE) program at Daleville’s Lord Botetourt High School (LBHS). (DE enables LBHS students to earn credits at Virginia Western while completing their high school graduation requirements.) In response, Hollins began offering online graduate classes to help teachers at LBHS and throughout Virginia qualify to teach DE classes. To date, five mathematics teachers in the commonwealth have earned eligibility.
“We are proud to help teachers,” Lange said, “but the real winners are the students.”