Special Project

Kansas and Missouri have two of the youngest, least experienced teacher work forces in the country. Yet, the profession remains a challenging one that takes dedication  and skill.

How are schools in the Kansas City preparing teachers for the future? What effect will this have on our kids? Teaching It Forward is KCUR’s deep look at the changing nature of the teaching profession in Kansas City.

Ways to Connect

Courtesy photo / Kauffman School

Education insiders in Kansas City have been closely watching the Ewing Marion Kauffman School  ever since it started in 2011.

Now, the rest of Missouri may perk up. 

This week, the Missouri Charter Public School Association named Kauffman its Missouri Charter School of the Year, citing its "strong academic performance," "innovative professional development" and "daily efforts to build community and engage parents." 

AFGE / Flickr--CC

For the past seven years, Randi Weingarten has led the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers' unions in the United States. 

In an interview with KCUR, she discussed what may be behind the persistent teacher shortages in Kansas, the politically tinged process to rewrite Missouri's learning standards and a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that could forever alter how unions like hers do business. 

In an ideal world, what should teaching be like? Should teachers be philosophers, innovators or ...  computers? We'll hear from teachers, current and former, and an education thinker about the teacher of the future.

Guests:

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Name: Devon Teran

Number Of Years In Education: 8

Role: Assistant Principal, Alta Vista Charter High School (Kansas City)

Devon Teran grew up in Wichita with parents who were educators. In fact, his father served as superintendent of Wichita Public Schools before moving to Grandview nearly a decade ago. (Ralph Teran recently announced his retirement from that post.) 

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

On a recent Friday afternoon, once students had left for the weekend, the fifth-grade team at the Kauffman School in Kansas City stayed behind and practiced walking down the hallway. 

They were working on how to lead students from class to class during passing periods. While six or so teachers played the role of (relatively compliant) students, one teacher would lead them down the hall giving instructions. 

What's the process being used to determine how well teachers are educating their students? Steve Kraske examines how educators are evaluated in Kansas and Missouri.

Guests: 

African American students have greater faith in the fairness of their schools when they have more black teachers. That’s a finding in a new national study conducted by professors from the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri.

The study examined student attitudes towards discipline and fairness by analyzing survey data of 10th graders around the country from the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Mike Besler is a former Kansas state high school champion quarterback and a member of the Blue Valley West High School Hall of Fame. But he still needs a coach. 

"When I first heard, I was kind of like, 'I want my own space.' But now that I've seen how resourceful it is, it's made a world of difference," Besler says. 

How important is it for kids to have teachers who look like them, or share their culture? And if they don't, can teachers be taught to teach across culture? 

Kansas City-area students who transfer during the school year face daunting challenges. Student mobility interrupts a child's education and presents teachers with the task of catching pupils up with the rest of the class.

Guests:

  • Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight is the Executive Director of the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium.
  • Ann Jarrett is Teaching & Learning Director for the Missouri National Education Association.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

On a recent summer morning, a dozen would-be teachers gathered outside Kansas City's Juvenile Justice Center, preparing to go inside. 

"This is a lockdown facility," cautioned Uzziel Pecina, the professor leading what was a rather unusual field trip. "Are there any questions before we enter?" 

Pecina teaches what he calls a "summer community immersion" course at University of Missouri-Kansas City's Institute for Urban Education. 

Julia Szabo / KCUR

Name: Kelly Ott

Number of Years In Education: 18

Role: Director of Professional Development (Blue Valley Public Schools)

 Kelly Ott is a second career teacher who came to the profession with the goal of leaving a positive footprint. After graduating from college with International Business and French degrees she worked in the fashion industry in Paris, but she knew she wanted more...

Kelly spoke with some of her colleagues about this shift. 

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.

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?'" 

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Kansas City's newest charter high school opened Wednesday. Well, not totally new. 

The Ewing Marion Kauffman School has been on the Kansas City charter landscape for four years now.

It opened in 2011 with a lone fifth-grade class and gradually expanded, adding a grade each year. Now, the school is opening a brand new building on its campus near 63rd Street and Paseo Boulevard.

And that original fifth-grade class will become Kauffman's first set of ninth-graders. 

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

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in August 2015.     

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. 

Around the Kansas City metro, there are roughly 20,000 public school teachers in more than 50 districts and charter schools, teaching more than 300,000 students. 

Broadly speaking, the metro reflects statewide trends in both Kansas and Missouri that show teachers are steadily getting younger and less experienced. Both states have two of the youngest, least experienced teacher workforces in the country, according to the most recent federal data. 

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:

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.

Tell KCUR: Who's Your Most Memorable Teacher? Why?

Jul 10, 2015
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?