U of A taking part in program to fight Arizona teacher shortage

Published: Sep. 26, 2017 at 10:44 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 11:20 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Governor Doug Ducey and state education leaders are launching a new program to fill Arizona classrooms with qualified educators.

The initiative is called the Arizona Teacher's Academy, and was formed after the governor called for universities and colleges to come up with a plan to fight the state's teacher shortage crisis.

Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona are all part of the program; however, each university offers different programs.

At the U of A, it is a master's-level program. That means people who want to apply must have an undergrad degree.

Once a student is admitted into the program and completes it, they can receive a tuition waiver. Members, however, must commit to teaching in Arizona for one year.

Although they can teach anywhere in the state, education leaders at the U of A hopes academy graduates stay in southern Arizona.

They are hoping to accomplish that goal by introducing academy members to Tucson-area classrooms while they are completing their master's degree.

The idea is that it will motivate them to stay in the community. Dominic Savana, originally from New Jersey, recently transferred to the university and aspires to become a teacher one day.

He says the Arizona Teacher's Academy might influence him into staying and teaching in Southern Arizona.

"I think once you get used to working with the kids and you see really what changes can be made and what can be done in this area," he said. "There is kind of a motivation inherently to want to work in this area. So if there's a greater incentive to offset the income that teachers would have in Arizona then that's a great plan."

But Jason Freed, President of Tucson Education Association thinks more still needs to be done. "Our appreciation is tempered a little bit because we have a greater concern with not just recruitment, but also retention." According to TEA, 50 percent of teachers leave within the first 3-5 years. "The issue starts being that at some point these educators have this debt forgiven and when that moment happens my fear is that people will leave the profession," he said.

According to TEA, the starting salary at Tucson Unified School District is $37,700. Freed thinks that Tucson educators need a salary increase. He says bump in a paycheck would encourage more teachers to stay in the classroom. Another important piece is making sure teachers feel appreciated. When people are happy in their job, they tend to stay longer.

The governor and education leaders will gather in Maricopa County Tuesday morning to formally announce the program.

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