While NYSUT has launched “Take a Look at Teaching” as a full-throttle initiative to combat the state’s looming teacher shortage, individual local unions and members are taking it upon themselves to address the problem head-on.
Copenhagen Central Schools teacher Lori Griffin — this year’s winner of NYSUT’s Sandra Feldman Leadership Grant — used her award money to produce a series of commercials to raise awareness of the shortage and hopefully help reverse the trend.
The spots, which have aired on local North Country CBS and Fox television affiliates, are called “Will You Answer the Call Today?” and feature students talking about the positive impact teachers have had on their lives.
“I scripted these from the heart because we are in a crisis — we need teachers,” said Griffin, an English teacher who also serves as the Copenhagen Teachers Association’s secretary and regional Political Action director.
Griffin’s commercials are an extension of the work the Copenhagen union has long been doing to attack the shortage now confronting the profession, which is a result of declining enrollment in teacher education programs and an aging demographic in which a third of the state’s teaching workforce is set to retire within the next five years.
Schools in rural areas across the state and North Country have been hit particularly hard by the crisis. In the past, for instance, Copenhagen would receive upwards of 200 applications each summer from those hoping to land a teaching position. Now, the number of applicants has nose-dived into the single digits.
Led by its Local Action Project members, the Copenhagen TA has been committed to an aggressive communications campaign through social and traditional media that aims to boost recruitment in the district.
“We are being proactive,” said CTA President John Cain. “We can accept things the way they are or we can fight to make things better.”