New program addresses Arizona’s teacher needs

October 29, 2014 / by / 1 Comment
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By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau

Grand Canyon University announced a new education initiative Wednesday to nearly 50 Arizona K-12 school officials as part of the University’s ongoing effort to address the state’s shortage of high-quality teachers.

The Lopes Leap to Teach program, a joint effort of GCU’s College of Education and office of Strategic Educational Alliances, includes plans for a clinical practice expo and networking event in January where Arizona school officials may recruit GCU students who’ve recently completed student-teaching assignments. They also want to connect districts with students needing to complete practicum hours in classrooms and alumni searching for job opportunities.

Dr. Kimberly LaPrade, dean of GCU’s College of Education, discussed the Lopes Leap to Teach Initiative with Arizona K-12 school leaders Wednesday on campus. (Photo by Alexis Bolze)

Dr. Kimberly LaPrade, dean of GCU’s College of Education, discussed the Lopes Leap to Teach Initiative with Arizona K-12 school leaders Wednesday on campus. (Photo by Alexis Bolze)

The University also aims to partner with new school districts to connect top student teachers to opportunities at schools with vacant positions. Also, GCU announced a 5 percent tuition reduction for parents of children in its participant K-12 districts who might like to become teachers.

By next year, GCU hopes to have an even stronger network of local schools with access to its top future teachers, many of whom would rather teach close to home than move out of state for jobs.

“It’s a passion of ours and we’re working really hard to get those teacher candidates out there to you, and to have them well prepared,” College of Education Dean Dr. Kimberly LaPrade told the group.

Visitors to campus Wednesday included school district superintendents, principals and administrators from around the Valley and from as far away as Payson and Maricopa, in addition to some from charter and private schools. For many, the teacher shortage impacts students and their families each year — and GCU is prepared to provide a direct pipeline to high-quality, well-trained teachers to jump quickly into open positions.

According to the Arizona Department of Education, the state has about 95,000 certified teachers, though only about 52,000 are teaching this year. Experts cite factors such as low entry-level salaries and a lack of professional development opportunities in the state’s struggle to retain quality K-12 teachers.

At the Wednesday meeting, school administrators received copies of “Addressing a Shortage of High Quality Teachers: An Escalating Dilemma For Arizona Schools,” an education policy paper by GCU visiting professor Dr. Gerald Tirozzi,which was published through the College of Doctoral Studies in April. In the paper, Tirozzi, a former assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education, cited the need for policymakers and other stakeholders to urge reforms in  the Arizona Legislature in 2015.

Dr. Beverly Hurley, GCU’s director of academic partnerships, said the “bashing” of Arizona public school teachers and “lack of support from administrators” — common trends referenced in Tirozzi’s research — have over the past decade led the state’s teachers to cope with salaries that “have not kept pace with the overall salary increases for (many) other professions.”

Lopes Leap to Teach aims to address common issues facing Arizona’s schools and the teachers GCU prepares to lead students at those schools. Events like a GCU career fair in December and the clinical practice expo in January are designed to introduce students to schools in need of their services, and vice versa. GCU leaders believe those types of events will drive awareness about the need for teachers and promote openness about schools or districts with shortages.

“Maybe that will help drive up salaries, because competition can do that,” said Hurley, a former West Valley school superintendent.

The College of Education has 159 students currently in student-teaching roles who plan to graduate this spring, so school districts officials attending upcoming events through Lopes Leap to Teach will have opportunities to meet many GCU teaching candidates at once. Additionally, partner schools will have the opportunity to post opportunities on GCU’s online job board managed by Career Services.

Britt Chandler, associate vice president in the College of Education, said Lopes Leap to Teach has been in the works for several months. He and others solicited feedback from University staff and other stakeholders to determine how to build new connections for new participant schools.

“We have a large partner network, but a lot of times the only time they would reach out is when they’d have a shortage,” Chandler said.

“Now rather than them waiting to come to us, we’re trying to be more proactive, have them come out, and give them the opportunity to reach as many (students) as possible.”

Reach Michael Ferraresi at michael.ferraresi@gcu.edu or 602-639-7030.


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  1. Tami A. Carpenter-Olney

    Governor Brewer wants to appeal the State Supreme Court’s Decision to uphold Proposition 301

    Governor Brewer and her legislators have continued to treat Arizona’s teachers like their jobs are not worth rewarding monetarily, nor are Arizona’s children worthy of the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Proposition 301 to get our state out of the 50/50 per pupil funding ranking. Governor Brewer has formally announced that she is going to appeal the AZ Supreme Court’s decision in the near future.

    Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) has a $10.4 million deficit for the current school year. If awarded the money allocated from the State Supreme Court in the amount of $13 million, (PVUSD) will be able to clear their budget deficit for this 2014-2015 year, and address teacher compensation and class sizes (our high school class rooms go up to 42 kids in a room, as I discovered while substitute teaching at Horizon High School in a sophomore biology class.

    PVUSD has done everything possible to cut overhead costs, like turning off the building air conditioning at 7:00 p.m. The teachers have shoestring budgets to work with, in addition to serving the public with high standard signature programs such as International Baccalaureate, Core Knowledge, STEM, Language Immersion, and so forth.

    To my detriment and the state’s, I had to abruptly quit AZ teaching profession after 22 years of continuous service because I could not pay my basic bills and I had to retire prematurely because I suffered a nervous breakdown. I am bilingual in Spanish and English, highly qualified in teaching early childhood education, elementary foreign language and middle school English language. Last year, I lost my apartment, car, physical custody of my three daughters, retirement, and health insurance and went into a deep depressive state. There are other teachers in Arizona that are dirt poor, and they are also burned out like I was.

    I do not understand why Arizona does not value public education. Instead, the teachers are put under more pressure with more evaluations and Common Core/state standards to teach. Who is going to want to join this profession in the future with such little job satisfaction due to a variety of stress inducing variables?

    When I left a teacher state…Wisconsin, I went to Yuma, Arizona’s Crane District with a dream. I worked with At-Risk second language learners and migrant children. I believed that anyone could achieve the American dream, and I actively encouraged my students to aim as high as they could for a hopeful future of promises and opportunities that they deserve. I am leaving the profession 22 years later, broken down, saddened by the status of our public school’s financial state, thoroughly disappointed by our state legislators, depressed, anxious, and confused by what has and continues to negatively transpire in this state. Due to my new medical condition, I can no longer secure full-time employment in any sector.

    Please help us!

    I know that you most likely are not proud that Arizona is at the bottom of the 50 states in per pupil spending. Where really are Arizona’s priorities? Shouldn’t they be on bettering Arizona’s citizens through public education? I just don’t understand what foolishness is being allowed to take place in this state. Who is getting all of Arizona’s taxpayers’ money (we have one of the highest tax rates in the nation of 8.3%, which is even higher than California’s 8.0 %.) Would someone in a government capacity please explain to all of the teachers, students, parents, and community members what is really going on here?

    A very disappointed former Arizona teacher,

    Tami A. Carpenter-Olney.
    P.S. From my professional eyes, it is the state’s generated problem that they choose not to fund public education. I do not believe that there would be a shortage of teachers if teachers could afford to be in the profession. My prayers are with your cause, it will take a miracle to overcome this state’s lack of educational support. I probably had another 5 teaching years in me, but I became burned out and financially run down to the ground.

    Oct.30.2014 at 7:58 am
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