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Regional Teachers of the Year Support Recruitment and Retention Plan
January 21, 2022
LANSING - Michigan's 2021-2022 Regional Teachers of the Year (RTOY) have experienced firsthand the impact of the teacher shortage in Michigan's public schools on students and staff.
These renowned educators believe that the proposed plan developed by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and endorsed by nine leading statewide education associations and the State Board of Education to address the teacher shortage will help re-build the teaching profession.
MDE has provided the state legislature with a menu of strategic investment options to respond to the teacher shortage-a major issue facing Michigan schools and school children and, in many cases, schools and school children across the country.
The teacher shortage issue is critical and immediate, according to the RTOYs, and urgently needs long-lasting and comprehensive solutions funded by the state legislature.
"We are at a critical juncture on Michigan's education front, and it is time to take swift action by recruiting and retaining quality educators today," said Region 5 Teacher of the Year Janet Swarthout, who teaches at Caro High School. "The recent mass exodus from the profession, in combination with the current national shortage of educators in training at our colleges and universities, only exacerbates a problem that existed long before the pandemic. Our legislature must act immediately if we are to stave off a future tsunami of loss of educators that would prove catastrophic not only to our children but to the great state of Michigan as well."
Region 3 Teacher of the Year Theresa Ziegeler, a sixth-grade teacher at West Ottawa Public Schools, said: "Everyone will feel the impact if solutions like those developed by MDE aren't enacted to ensure a robust pool of talent to lead our classrooms and our schools. Prior to 2020, projections had been showing an impending teacher shortage. The pandemic has not only confirmed this but also has brought us to a point of crisis. With the collective social trauma and personal mental health of many being tested, entering a profession where there is a salary that is significantly less and where one works significantly more in the public spotlight, love of teaching and passion for children will not be enough to see many make that choice. Education stakeholders must work to restore the prestige in teaching as a profession and ensure that current, as well as future, educators will find a rewarding career with market competitive compensation and effective contribution to the future of all citizens in our nation."
"I hope the Michigan legislature will act swiftly to support teachers and students by adopting strategies presented by the Michigan Department of Education that encourage teacher recruitment and retention," said Region 7 Teacher of the Year James Johnson, a teacher at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix High School. "The shortage of teachers and all support staff is not a new problem in Michigan or around the country, but it is one that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and we are only just beginning to feel its detrimental effects on schools and students. The shortages place additional burdens on teachers who remain in the profession, which in turn negatively impacts our students and drives more teachers away."
Region 4 Teacher of the Year Cheldora Haynes, a third-grade teacher at Bridgeport-Spaulding Community Schools said that while school districts in that region are also experiencing shortages in bus drivers and aides, food service, and front office staff, the teacher shortage is exceptionally stressing.
"Middle and high school teachers are using their prep time to cover for absent staff. Elementary teachers are combining classes when a grade level teacher is absent," Haynes said. "When a guest teacher does show up, administrators are breathing sighs of relief because they are informing staff that there is coverage today."
"The Michigan teacher shortage is another pandemic gripping our beloved students, taxing our current teachers and increasing mounting trepidation amongst our families," said Region 9 Teacher of the Year Brian Paul, a third-grade teacher at the Crestwood School District. "August legislators, I entreat you, allow teachers to continue to provide all of our students this hallowed gift of education by enacting the strategic options listed in the resolution on Michigan's teacher shortage provided by the MDE and adopted by the Michigan State Board of Education. Act now, to allow our Michigan youth to blaze a path of education prowess long into the 21st century!"
Michigan's Teacher of the Year Leah Porter, an elementary teacher at Holt Public Schools, added: "Teaching is one of the greatest and most important professions in our communities. It is vital to support education in this most challenging time to ensure quality education for students. It is incredibly urgent to provide opportunities to build the teaching force and give much needed supports and relief to current school staff."