ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – It has been difficult for school districts to attract new teaching talent, according to New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). That labor crunch has hit rural schools especially hard.
But some school districts in the region are hoping to cultivate new teaching talent in their own high schools.
About five years ago, Windsor Central School District was looking into career training programs.
“We started off with business, entrepreneurship, engineering, computer science, agriculture, trades,” said Scott Beattie, Assistant Superintendent at the Windsor Central School District. “And then in that conversation, we are thinking ‘Well, geez. We’re doing all this work for these industries. What about ourselves? What about our own industry?'”
So in 2018, the district launched a teacher training program. This year, the program will expand to two more districts in the region: the Binghamton City School District and the Maine-Endwell Central School District.
That expansion comes after a year when many teachers in the region chose to retire or change jobs. Data from the New York State Teacher Retirement System (NYSTRS), which covers teachers across much of the state, shows an increase in retirements in 2020.
“We just lived through a very fearful time where we saw on TV that people were passing away,” said Heather Herringshaw, the teacher who piloted the program at Windsor. “We knew people who maybe got really, really sick and it changed their lives forever. And so it really made, I think, everybody delve deep, and say ‘Who am I? Where do I want to be in life?’”
Herringshaw said the teacher training class has helped students figure out if they really do want to work in the classroom. Back in 2019, Brady Weingartner decided to take Herringshaw’s class at Windsor.
“I remember, like, going into the summer of my senior year of high school, I kind of drew it down to phys ed,” Weingartner said. “But, like, at the back of my mind, I really didn’t know, like, if I actually want to do it.”
But Herringshaw helped clear away those doubts. Weingartner is going into his third year studying education at SUNY Cortland. He is not sure where he will end up working when he graduates.
“I want to go to a place where, you know, I feel like at home,” Weingartner said. “And you never know where that could be. It could be at a school in Virginia for all I know.”
But, he said, his alma mater is pretty high on the list.