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Las Vegas valley educators gather to find solutions addressing teacher shortage

Posted at 5:47 PM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-17 21:53:05-04

Not enough teachers in classrooms -- it's a problem that continues to be an issue nationwide and in the Las Vegas valley.

An Economic Policy Institute study shows there is a shortage of 110,000 teachers around the country. In Southern Nevada, Clark County School District was short 750 teachers in the previous school year.

The "Why Teach?" summit at Nevada State College on Thursday seeks to address the issue.

"Our goal is, by the end of the day they'll have two to three actions items that we can help keep them accountable for in terms of addressing the teacher shortage," says Shartriya Collier, the associate dean of the education school at Nevada State College.

For Collier, this means changing the image of teachers from overworked and stressed educators to difference-makers.

"You can transform communities. You can transform family trees through the power of teaching,” she says.

Collier says the way to do that is to focus on recruiting a diverse group of people and retaining current teachers. That means developing mentorship networks and improving teacher pay.

"When we work with our community partners and stakeholders, work with our high schools, work with our community colleges, I believe it's feasible," says Collier.

Juliana Urtubey cares about being a teacher a lot.

She works at Crestwood Elementary School and understands the hard work it requires.

"Making it a really dreamy profession and having people see the potential of the profession is really important,” she says.

That's why Urtubey joined 80 other educators and civic leaders at the summit. They discussed ways to tackle the teacher shortage that's affecting school districts around the country.

"We're losing a lot of teachers, and a lot of wonderful teachers we're hoping not to lose,” she says.

The summit hit on solutions including improving pay and providing support systems, to retaining teachers.

A survey from the National Center of Education Statistics shows the nationwide turnover rate was 16% with Nevada at 19.5%.

"We need to have competitive pay when we compare it to other professions. And I think that's important, especially when recruiting teachers of color,” Urtubey says.

These were the same arguments made by CCSD teachers in their near strike against the school district in August. Urtubey says teachers can help bridge the gap in the shortage.

"Teachers have an exceptional voice in terms of informing policy and in terms of informing our hiring practices and retention practices," she says.

Another way, reinforcing the local higher education pipeline by developing more opportunities through classes and financial aid for prospective students, such as those at Nevada State College.

"We just got approved for our new school of education, Glen and Andi Christiansen School of Education, so our goal is to graduate 400 teachers a year,” Collier says.

It's a number Urtubay says would help address the shortage and help reinforce the positive reputation of teachers.

"I'd like to see more space for teachers to give that voice and more space for us to follow through on the ideas we have for retaining and recruiting teachers,” she says.