teachers

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Perhaps the issue that worries current educators the most is where the next generation of teachers will come from.

Lots of teachers are leaving the profession. But what’s scarier than that is the shrinking number of people who chose teaching as a career.

You can blame economics and politics.

Teachers and public education take a beating at the hands of some politicians.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Many veteran teachers speak of a time earlier in their careers when they doubted their choice to teach. 

"It was actually one of my first days teaching kindergarten," says Julie Wilson, who now directs the state-run teaching jobs board kansasteachingjobs.com

"I had to get them lined up for a fire drill, and it was such a mess that by the time I got them out to the playground I was in tears. And I was like, 'What have I done? How am I ever going to teach them if I can't get them to line up?'" 

Let's start this story with a big disclaimer: the Common Core-aligned tests Missouri students took this year are a one-time deal that cannot be compared to either what came before or what will come after.

Julia Szabo / KCUR

    

Name: Chris Orlando
Number of years teaching: 4
Grade: 8th
School: Southwest Middle School (Lawrence)

"You taught me the skill of empathy really early on."

For 7th grade Social Studies teacher Chris Orlando, teaching isn’t about facts; it’s about building relationships with students and teaching life skills. This drive, Orlando says, comes from the relationship with his mom, Pat Lorenz, who has been an educator for more than 30 years. 

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Grandview Public Schools is a statistical anomaly in the Kansas City metro.

On average, teachers in Grandview have 15 years experience, which is on par with suburban districts like Blue Valley and Lee's Summit. Likewise, the district's proportion of new teachers (those with five years experience or less) is also small: less than 20 percent, compared to a metro-wide average of nearly 30 percent. 

Julia Szabo / KCUR

Name: Susana Ozaeta
Number of years teaching: 1
Grade: 6th
School: Gladstone Elementary, Kansas City Public Schools

"Their eyes lit up when they knew I was from the neighborhood." 

Susana Ozaeta grew up in Northeast Kansas City. As a child of immigrants she saw how uncomfortable her Spanish-speaking mother felt at her school.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

The front line of the nation's generational shift in teaching may be Kansas City, Missouri. 

Around the metro area  — made up of more than 50 districts and charter schools in both Kansas and Missouri — tens of thousands of students are returning to school this week. And they will be taught by a teacher force that is one of the youngest, least experienced in the nation.

The exodus of teachers from Kansas has caught the nation's eye. As KCUR launches a series highlighting the numerous challenges Kansas and Missouri teachers face, we ask three educators what a day in their lives looks like.

Guests:

KT Kind / Flickr-CC

A persistent teacher shortage remains in Kansas, just two weeks before students start returning for the new school year. 

According to the state-run Kansas Education Employment Board, there were 466 open positions at Kansas schools as of Monday. Of the openings, 236 were for certified teachers. The other openings were for administrators, support staff and other positions. 

Kevin Dooley / Flickr--CC

KCUR Announcer Linda Sher's life changed when her high school French teacher challenged her.

Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann credits her love of literature to fond memories of listening to her elementary school teacher read out loud in class.

And I owe my career in journalism to my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Bentley, who turned my weakness in writing into a strength by paying me a little extra attention.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The chairman of the Kansas Board of Education says the Legislature and others have to show more support for teachers or the exodus of teaching talent to other states will continue.

The board Tuesday heard the annual report on the teaching profession in the state, a report that covers everything from salary to ages.

Julia Szabo / KCUR

On Tuesday, the Kansas State Board of Education will be presented with some disturbing numbers.

In the past five years, the number of teachers leaving Kansas to teach in other states has steadily grown.

KCUR

School may be out, but teachers are top of mind at KCUR this summer.

Our special reporting project, Teaching It Forward, is looking at what makes teachers effective and ready for a changing education landscape in Kansas City.

We'll share this reporting later this summer, but for now, we're curious.

What do you remember about your school teachers? Do you have good or bad memories?

Tell KCUR: Who's your most memorable teacher? Why? 

Julia Szabo / KCUR

In the next couple of years, Kansas education will face some of its most unstable times ever.

The Legislature has cut classroom funding. There’s no school finance formula and the the whole system may be thrown into chaos depending on what the state Supreme Court does.

All of this is all taking a toll on recruiting and retaining teachers, and there's mounting evidence that Kansas teachers are becoming disenchanted. And out-of-state districts are taking advantage.

Kauffman Foundation

A new teacher training program in Kansas City hopes to mimic the medical residency training model in order to draw talented educators into the profession and keep them in the classroom long-term. 

The Kansas City Teacher Residency will place new teachers — or "residents" — in a one-year apprenticeship in a high-needs city school. Each new teacher will get intensive one-on-one coaching from a master teacher acting as a full-time mentor. 

"This is what we know sets teachers up for success," says Aaron North, vice president of education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. "Being observed, getting feedback, having that opportunity to make those adjustments with an experienced educator guiding and mentoring you." 

North says it will give the new teachers of the program a chance to "hone their craft" as they learn how to teach. They will also take graduate-level courses while they work in schools. 

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Who says teaching doesn't pay? 

Probably not Libbi Sparks. The Independence high school teacher recently cashed in a career's worth of math lessons to the tune of $30,000. 

Sparks teaches math at William Chrisman High School in Independence, Missouri, and has nearly three decades of experience teaching in public schools.

She's taught everything from middle school pre-algebra to dual-credit Calculus II. In 2012, she earned prestigious National Board certification. 

In other words, she knows what she is doing. 

www.fundforteachers.org

Fund for Teachers provides local educators the money to gain unique experiences from around the world and bring them back to their students, and school communities. On this edition of Up To Date, guest host Danie Alexander talks with a panel about the process and results of this program. 

Guests:

Cybrarian 77 / Flickr--CC

A very contentious ballot issue in Missouri has been suddenly abandoned by its backers.

Amendment 3 would drastically change the way teachers are evaluated and retained.

The constitutional amendment would require districts to base the majority of an educator’s evaluation on student achievement. Teacher pay and retention would be largely based on that data. Amendment 3 would also cut into teacher tenure.

US Department of Education / Flickr, Creative Commons

Recent studies from the Center for American Progress and the National Education Association point to what some are calling a diversity gap in American schools. While student populations are growing more and more racially diverse, the teaching pool isn't changing at a pace that reflects that reality.

Major changes to teacher employment laws in Kansas will soon be taking effect, eliminating from state law what many people know as “tenure.”

That means administrators will be able to be fire teachers more easily, and it could be several years before we know the full effects of the changes. Under the old rules, Kansas teachers who had been with a district fewer than three years were on probationary status, and could be let go without a reason.

Kansas National Education Association

A controversial move by Kansas lawmakers has teachers up in arms all over the state.  Steve Kraske talks with Kansas State Rep. John Bradford, who supported the change in the law, and Mark Desetti of the Kansas National Education Association.  They'll discuss how it will now be easier to fire teachers by eliminating their due-process rights and how supporters say that will improve education.  They also look at how this affects job security for teachers as well as their ability to criticize administrators when called for.

Guests:

A joint Missouri House/Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on whether the state's teacher tenure system is working.

Among those testifying was Mark Van Zandt, General Counsel for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). He says tenured teachers can be held accountable under the current system.

"There are procedures in place, if a teacher is not meeting the standards that are expected of them, in terms of instruction," Van Zandt said. "There can be consequences."

Cybrarian77/Flickr-CC

For some, stepping in front of 30 kids to talk about math or English would be a nightmare. For teachers, it’s just another day at work.

In the first part of Monday's Up to Date, we talk with teachers Caitlin Rowe, Ashley Martinez, Jacque Flowers, who have just finished their first year in the classroom, about what they’ve learned, surprises they encountered and what keeps them coming back.

Legislation pre-filed in the Missouri House would allow teachers to carry firearms in their classrooms.