Dr. Mark T. Brainard is the president of Delaware Technical Community College. Dr. Mark Holodick is the secretary of the Delaware Department of Education.
Delaware has been experiencing a teacher shortage for years, but the problem is not unique to the First State. Nationwide, 18% of public schools in the United States last fall had one teaching vacancy, and 27% had multiple vacancies, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Teacher shortages were becoming more common nationwide prior to the pandemic, but the unprecedented challenges caused by the global health crisis exacerbated the problem. Recognizing the seriousness of the issue, Delaware public school superintendents met with the leadership of Delaware Technical Community College in 2019 looking for help.
School leaders knew responding quickly to workforce needs is part of Delaware Tech’s mission, so they asked if the college could start a bachelor’s degree program for educators to help districts and charters create a well-prepared pool of teachers. Because most Delaware Tech graduates remain in the state to work after graduation, the local leaders believed teachers educated at the college would likely return to their own charters and districts to teach. And they knew Delaware Tech had already created a Bachelor of Science in nursing program in 2017, in response to the state’s health care sector’s need, so the leaders were hoping the college would do the same for educators.
Delaware Tech responded by conducting a comprehensive analysis of labor market information and surveyed education students and alumni, as well as education leaders statewide, before deciding to move forward with its Bachelor of Science in elementary education program (BSE). Currently, the program has about 80 students enrolled, all of whom have already completed an associate degree program in education.
The first cohort started in fall 2022, and those students are preparing to begin a yearlong residency in public schools this fall. The residency is the final component students need to graduate from the program and differs from traditional student teaching in that it lasts a full year, as opposed to a few months. A key benefit of the residency is that it provides immersive, hands-on experience in real classroom settings that will better prepare our future teachers for the many challenges they may encounter during their careers. Twenty-nine students are expected to participate in the residency portion of the program this fall, which will include nine public school districts statewide and one charter school. Residents receive a stipend through a combination of funds, including a Delaware Department of Education grant, to complete a residency and commit to teaching in Delaware for at least three years.
Another advantage of this program is that students are eligible for dual certification in elementary education and special education, which expands their employment opportunities and enhances their ability to cater to diverse student needs. This, in turn, empowers educators to have a positive impact on a broader group of students and communities. And students can easily transition to the program from the Department of Education’s K-12 Teacher Academy pathway offered in Delaware high schools for aspiring teachers. Through this high school pathway, schools are creating the pipeline for students they hope will return to their home districts and charters to teach.
Delaware Tech BSE students also are able to receive a high-quality education at an affordable price. Eligible students can take advantage of free tuition through the Student Excellence Equals Degree scholarship program to alleviate financial barriers that might otherwise stand in their way of pursuing a teaching career. And the college offers flexibility with courses, recognizing that many students are juggling school with jobs and family responsibilities.
The Bachelor of Science in elementary education program at Delaware Tech is just one more example of how the college’s partnership with public schools benefits the people of Delaware. Creating a pipeline of skilled and talented teachers for elementary students will make a difference in our state for generations to come. We are proud to celebrate the first students who will be participating in their BSE residencies at an event later this month and look forward to these students entering the workforce next year as fully certified teachers. This innovative initiative, in partnership with local school districts, is a vital component to addressing Delaware’s teacher shortage.