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Growing Your Own

Why Grow Your Own Teachers

Today we face a critical teacher shortage in Arizona that is adversely affecting Title 1 schools. It is easy to attribute the shortage of qualified teachers to lack of funding for teacher pay. However, there are other factors that we can focus and improve upon more immediately and without the need for complex and controversial political discourse.

According to Alice Laplante of Stanford, 85% of teachers begin their teaching career within 40 miles of their hometown. This means that unless encouraged and supported to do so, teachers might not move out of their comfort zone. The concern, then, is that historically under-resourced districts continue to struggle.

Students pursuing a teaching degree must be required to gain experience in Title 1 schools and thus be ready to go where they are needed most upon graduation. Read Better Be Better’s literacy program prioritizes Title 1 schools, therefore offering opportunities for student teachers to gain exposure and experience to schools facing these specific challenges.

Classroom facilitating during RBBB programming offers student teachers experience in an after-school, non-traditional classroom setting. It is not intended to be an alternative to any clinical experience. However, consistent feedback from Site Leaders indicates that they are better prepared to manage a classroom, more prepared to work with a diverse group of students and learning styles, and more inclined to take positions where they are needed most when they graduate.

Christine—elementary education student at ASU, and Site Leader for RBBB—says that RBBB has helped her “develop a broader perspective on experiences and situations all children can come from,” as well as, “classroom management skills and increased excitement to become a teacher.”

In addition to being better prepared for success with the demographic, they are also given the opportunity to foster relationships with influencers in the administration, thus further increasing the opportunity that they will be recruited and accepted into positions in those districts.

With that same 85% in mind, why not begin even younger, empowering current students of these high-need schools to become teachers? We already know that teachers are likely to stay within 40 miles of their own town; We can utilize this to our advantage. It is shown to be more effective for students to be taught by those within their community, because a teacher that is familiar with the culture and community that surrounds a student can build a stronger understanding and empathy to bind the relationship.

This kind of realization and growth can begin at any age during one’s school career. Former Osborn superintendent, Patty Tate states, “You can’t enjoy something you haven’t been exposed to,” she continues, “With growing your own, the inspiration can begin early.”

Read Better Be Better is contributing to this development of school-aged children by offering hands-on experience to middle-grade students as Reading Leaders, and even to elementary students who may also become interested in giving back when they have the chance. Given the opportunity, students have proven that they will go above and beyond; Ariza—a Reading Leader at Whittier Elementary School—not only enjoys facilitating curriculum with her 3rd grade reading learner, but also implements this at home with her 2nd grade cousin.

Read Better Be Better is able to be that agent for change; providing the opportunity and encouraging students to create a future pipeline of diverse teachers within their own community. Tate ends this note saying, “[Read Better Be Better’s program] certainly can serve as this pathway and I think it has great potential!”