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UA working to bring teachers to state - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

UA working to bring teachers to state

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TUCSON -

Arizona is facing a critical deficit of qualified teachers.

A 2015 report from the Arizona Department of Education reveals thousands of teachers have left the state in the past five years, leading to a serious shortage of qualified teachers.

“Thirty percent of the new teachers in the state left within the first two years,” said University of Arizona professor Bruce Johnson. "We can’t have a profession where a third of the people are gone."

Johnson said low pay and high stress are behind the exodus.

2015 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau ranks Arizona as one of worst states when it comes to amount of money spent per student.

The University of Arizona is trying to tackle the problem of teacher retention head on with a series of new programs aimed at bringing new teachers into local classrooms and keeping them there.

The College of Education is recruiting teachers from around the state to fill gaps. The college is even converting professionals from other fields.  

Jessica Cenedese worked in the legal field before she decided to go back to school to become a teacher.

The University of Arizona helped place her as a student teacher at Flowing Wells High School. After 12 years working in a different profession, she feels like she is finally found her calling.

“Something just clicked. It was like I was meant to be here," said Cenedese. "I felt it and I hope my students feel it every day. I’m here.”

She said the transition has not been easy, but it has been worth it.

“This is where I’m meant to be and if you’re meant to be here you need to take that risk,” said Cenedese.

Renee Clift is associate dean at the UA’s College of Education.

She helped launch the UA/Sahuarita Teaching Fellows Program. This program helps place student teachers in the Sahuarita School District. It also gives them bonus money if they decide to stay.

“Our professors will be working with the cooperating teachers and together we’ll be growing teachers for Sahuarita,” said Clift.

Clift insists community support is crucial when it comes to recruiting and retaining educators.

“We're trying very hard to have communities say loudly and clearly, ‘We want you. You're one of our graduates, and we want you to come back. We want you teach in our schools. We value you,’” said Clift.

She is also calling on legislators to do their part in bringing more teachers to the state.

“Education is the one profession that makes all others possible. We have to invest in education early and consistently,” said Clift. 

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