GVSU’s education program growing amid teacher shortage

ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — As shortages of teachers and administrators continue to impact West Michigan schools, Grand Valley State University leaders said the university saw increased enrollment in the College of Education and Community Innovation this year. 

“We’ve seen a decline in the number of individuals that choose the profession of teaching for several years. At Grand Valley, our numbers and our enrollment in our education program has remained pretty steady,” said Dr. Amy Schelling, director of teacher education with the university’s College of Education and Community Innovation. 

Schelling believes several factors are playing into a lack of educators right now.

“Back in 2008, 2009, 2010, there were some significant changes made to made in the field of education where the evaluation system for teachers changed, pensions changed, the benefits and those kinds of things that teachers were experiencing prior to that time period decreased and changed,” she explained. “I think that has contributed to a decline in enrollment in teacher preparation programs. There are fewer high school graduates now than there were 10, 15, 20 years ago, and so the pool from which we have to have to draw from is smaller.”

Schelling also said many things could be impacting the steady enrollment at GVSU.

“One thing that we do is that our faculty and staff work really hard to ensure that we’re providing a high-quality education program to our students,” she said. “Also, I think that I can’t say enough about the partnerships that we have with our PK-12 districts because they are an essential part of the teacher preparation process. We couldn’t do this without them.”

Even throughout the pandemic, Schelling said she had been amazed and humbled by districts’ willingness to continue working with the university to provide those high-quality placements and mentor teachers.

She added that there are several initiatives GVSU is working towards to encourage more people to enter the profession. It includes conversations about elevating the profession to lead to appropriate entry-level salaries, improved workplace conditions and better advocacy for those teachers. 

“The way we address the teacher shortage problem is more of one about there aren’t enough people going into the profession, and why is that? As opposed to, there aren’t enough people out there available to go into the profession. I think if we look at the barriers and the challenges with why people aren’t going into the profession as opposed to there aren’t enough people to go into the profession, we come up with solutions that will best serve our PK-12 student population.”

Schellling said it will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to find these solutions. 

“It’s going to take all of us educator preparation institutions, our PK-12 partners, the Michigan Department of Education, the legislature and our communities to really to really appropriately address the issue.”