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Tech Dean: Traditional Teaching Students On Decline

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Tech Dean: Traditional Teaching Students On Decline

The number of students going to college to become a teacher is on the decline in the Upper Cumberland.

Tennessee Tech College of Education Dean Lisa Zagumny (Zuh-gum-nee) said that fewer people are pursuing teaching as a career nationwide, especially through the traditional pathway with an undergraduate degree. Zagumny said she thinks the number is going down due to the high amount of pressure teachers face.

“But I think it’s that social value that we place on teachers,” Zagumny said. “They’re there to teach our students. They are pedagogical experts. They are also experts in their content area, and when we place so many expectations on them beyond their content knowledge and their pedagogy, that’s a heavy lift.”

Zagumny also said the College of Education is seeing tremendous growth in its job-embedded program, which is designed to help working professionals shift into teaching jobs. She said she hopes this growth will help to offset the deficit in their traditional pathway to a career in education.

“Let’s say you have an undergraduate degree in biology, and you’ve been working out in the field in your chosen profession, and all of a sudden you decide – well, not all of a sudden, but you decide you want to be a teacher,” Zagumny said. “What we do is work with that school district. The school district will hire you as a teacher of record in a classroom, and then you would come back and work with us to get your master’s degree to earn that licensure. You have a three-year time window to do that, and we provide supports because, as you can well imagine, teaching all day and then taking additional courses is quite a heavy lift.”

Zagumny said the number of people enrolling in this alternate pathway has quadrupled in the past six years. Zagumny said a teacher shortage is a realistic concern for the future, with multiple factors feeding into the issue.

“One: you don’t have as many people pursuing that traditional pathway,” Zagumny said. “Two: you have record numbers of teachers retiring. But what’s also happening is great teachers go from school to school or district to district, right? Looking for new and different opportunities.”

Zagumny said they have seen a decline in the size of graduating education students over the past decade.

“Our numbers over the past three years have been averaging about 260, 260 people graduating, again, with that traditional four-year pathway to becoming a teacher, and that’s down probably from the 300s and, back in the good old days, 350-400 a year, but again this has been a trend we’ve seen over the past ten years, this decline, and we’ve really been holding steady in about the past seven years,” Zagumny said.


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