Utah governor, schools superintendent issue plea to former teachers: Come back

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Gov. Gary Herbert, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson and the CEO of Envision Utah Robert Grow issued a plea Wednesday to Utah educators currently not teaching to return to the profession to help address the state’s teacher shortage.

A collaboration with Envision Utah hopes to re-engage former teachers who may be interested in returning to the classroom. They are asked to complete a questionnaire at returntoteaching.org to gauge their interest in rejoining the teaching ranks and to find out what it would take to get them to return to Utah public schools.

“Whether you’re a former teacher who left for any reason, if you once thought about being a teacher or you’re a current teacher, our students need and deserve you, each student needs and deserves you. We all need you. To those of you who left the profession, I invite you to return,” said Dickson.

According to Dickson, there are about 30,000 Utahns who have teaching credentials who are currently not in the classroom.

“The survey will help us determine the reason behind it (not currently teaching) and if there is a desire to come back to the classroom and if they have desires, how we might help mitigate those issues,” Dickson said.

Dickson said Utah’s Return to Licensure pathway allows teachers to come back into the teaching system without taking additional courses.

Aaryn Birchell, Utah’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, said she took a nontraditional path to the classroom. She teaches Advanced Placement English at Uintah High School, which is her alma mater.

After high school, she attended Utah State University in Logan but didn’t complete her teaching degree until years later at USU’s branch campus in the Uinta Basin.

“I substituted for 12 years while I primarily stayed at home with my kids and taught piano lessons in the afternoons. I renewed my license every three years for 12 years,” she said.

She eventually accepted a part-time teaching position at Uintah High School, which later evolved into a full-time teaching job.

It took supportive administrators “who let me have some flexibility as I balanced life demands and navigated my nontraditional path,” she said.

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