In May, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia announced an historic partnership to solve the looming teacher shortage in our future – the initiative we know as TeachNY. The news followed a report published by the TeachNY Advisory Council with recommendations to lift the profession, encourage people to join its ranks, and create a supportive environment for our teachers so that they stay in the profession and inspire more students. After nearly two years of crafting that pathway, this project takes aim to solidify recommendations into policy and practice. I am a member of the steering committee charged with this next stage.
As president of the SUNY Student Assembly and a representative of nearly 600,000 of my peers across the system, I have firsthand insight into the myriad of issues they, and I, face. Many are challenged to succeed in college, feeling underprepared academically and struggling financially, thereby being at risk of failing to complete their degrees. But there exist additional (potential) students that I do not represent, as they choose not to or, for one reason or another, cannot go to college. I would venture to say that many of these issues could be remedied by excellent education delivered by good teaching.
Good teaching at an early age encourages students to learn more, to get their high school degree, and to go to college. Good teaching at an early age prepares students to complete their college degree in a timely manner, without having to repeat courses or change direction to avoid troublesome course work – both of which lead to higher college costs. And, for some, good teaching at an early age inspires students to become teachers themselves. This is a positive cycle that can only be realized as we better prepare more, well qualified teachers.
Around a quarter of New York’s teachers train at a SUNY school, giving the system a unique position to improve teacher preparation programs and improve pre-K-12 education across the state for millions of New Yorkers. This is a tremendous responsibility, and we know all too well that we need teacher education expertise throughout New York State.
TeachNY has sought a valuable partnership from key stakeholders, including faculty, students, administrators, and trustees. Each time the Steering Committee meets, as we did for the first time last week, members will gain greater insight into the importance of a strong and qualified teacher workforce in New York State. We will also have the chance to hear from leaders in primary, secondary, and post-secondary education as they discuss their unique needs in this continually-evolving field, so that we can be sure the new policy we help craft for SUNY effectively serves all of these groups. TeachNY is a highly inclusive policy review, one that I am honored to participate in on behalf of SUNY students.
One of the key features of the TeachNY plan is that it emphasizes the importance of supporting a teacher for the full length of the educator preparation pipeline, beginning with college recruitment and continuing after teachers are in the classroom, ensuring they have the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their fields while also preparing their students for post-secondary education and careers. From encouraging the brightest students to become teachers, to helping them complete college and continually advance throughout their career, TeachNY will have a lasting impact on teaching and learning in New York State for many years to come.
This post was authored by Marc Cohen. Marc is the current president of the SUNY Student Assembly. He is also a member of the TeachNY steering committee.