As many as 30 Kenosha Unified high school juniors and seniors who hope to become teachers one day— or at least see if an education career is the right fit — will have a unique opportunity to rise to the challenge this month.
Starting second semester, the district — in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Carthage College — will offer “Educator Rising” courses through the Grow Your Own Program, which allows students to earn elective credit for high school and college credits toward a teaching degree for free.
Initial courses will be taught online and offered during first period of the KUSD school day through Parkside and 6 p.m. on Wednesdays through Carthage. Instructors at Harborside Academy and LakeView Technology Academy will use the education curriculum from the respective higher learning institutions, according to LakeView’s Principal Beth Ormseth.
“Currently, we have high school students in Kenosha Unified schools with junior or senior status and the courses are taught virtually so they can be from any high school (in Unified),” she said. “So, for our students, it’s whatever works for their schedule and they can jump on virtually where they are and take the class.”
Joining Ormseth in the Zoom conference announcing the program were Harborside Academy Principal Bill Haithcock; Karin Sconzert, associate professor of education and Carthage education department chair; Carolynn Friesch, Carthage’s director of foundation and corporate relations; and Peggy James, Parkside’s Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies.
According to Haithcock, students will take an introductory course and can progress to upper-level courses once they’ve taken the prerequisite class.
The pilot program will run three semesters with up to 30-40 students in each successive semester allowed to enroll. Should applications to the program exceed enrollment space, a lottery would be used to determine participation.
Unlike college programs where high school students attend on campus often with older students, Unified teachers will teach the courses under “Grow Your Own” and students will be with their peers, according to Ormseth.
“But they’ll still be getting that college rigor,” she said.
While local educators want to involve high school students as early as possible, the program’s courses are being offered to juniors and seniors to ensure success.
“Because these courses are college-level, we don’t want to set students up to take them and not do well,” said James. “Juniors and seniors, we’d expect, would be able to handle the rigor of college-level course easier than freshmen or sophomores.”
At the high school level, according to Ormseth, counselors currently work with students they know are interested in becoming educators and want college credit.
“We’re also targeting students who scored high in (the education) pathway through the Xello program,” she said referring to software Unified uses to track students’ college readiness and interest in career fields.
Intro to education
Sconzert said the first course in the education program sequence helps instructors determine that “students don’t just love school because they love being a student, but because they understand what the role of a teacher is.”
The course introduces students to the practical skills and mindset involved in being a teacher, as well as learning first-hand how to talk to teachers and spending time in a classroom “thinking like a teacher so they know that’s what they want,” she said.
Sconzert said she tells students that, if she’s doing her job correctly, about 20 percent inevitably decide it’s not for them.
Teacher shortage, need for diversity
According to a 2016 Learning Policy Institute study, the number of teacher education enrollments dropped by 35 percent from 691,000 to 451,000, amounting to a decrease of nearly 240,000 over a five-year period since 2014, the latest available comparative data. The study also projected the demand for new teachers to reach 300,000 this year and exceed that number by 2025, while a shortage of more than 100,000 would persist through at least 2021.
“For Kenosha Unified, we’re facing somewhat of a teacher shortage, especially in certain content areas,” said Ormseth.
According to the district’s website, instructional areas of high need at all levels include: early education, English as a Second Language, family and consumer sciences, special education, student support, technical education and world languages. Library media specialists, math and science teachers are especially in demand at the middle and high school levels.
In an effort to offer the Educators Rising program free to students, Carthage College and UW-Parkside contributed about $72,000 in total funding.
Gauging interest in teaching at a young age and identifying students who want to enter the profession is one way to help increase the pool of future teachers, especially, locally, educators said.
“When you’re at a school and you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, oftentimes they tell you ‘a teacher.’ But we don’t have those numbers going into the profession,” Ormseth said.
The Rising Educators program is one way to help boost those numbers.
“I think we want as many (local students) coming into the teaching program as we can get,” said James.
In addition, educators said they want to increase diversity among teachers by promoting the program in the schools.
“I think we can hopefully attract more students who are diverse, interested in teaching in an urban environment and are more of the kind of educators that a lot of our students in Racine and Kenosha literally would benefit from in having these role models,” James said.
IN PHOTOS: The first big snow of the year
According to Jake Hoey, who runs the popular Jake’s Kenosha Area Weather page on Facebook, it looks like the Kenosha area saw 2 to 4 inches of snow east of I-94 overnight Tuesday, with the lowest amounts near Lake Michigan.
“West of the interstate was more like 4 to 6 inches, but the max I’ve actually seen reported in the county proper is about 5 inches in Twin Lakes,” Hoey said. “Still, Lake Geneva reported 6.5 inches, so I feel comfortable saying 4 to 6 inches west of the interstate in Kenosha County.”