The Pilot Light

Exploring America’s Teacher Shortage

Associate Professor Barbara Catbagan and Naropa student Samuel “Jasper” Cliff

By Samuel “Jasper” Cliff

I am Jasper Cliff, a writing student at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School, and an outreach representative in the office of admissions. I’ve been blessed to have these two worlds collide with an opportunity to use the craft of writing in a blog series.

This year, as Naropa launches a BA in Elementary Education and a Teacher Licensure Program, I’ll be investigating teacher preparation while also digging into the current teacher shortage affecting many parts of America, including Colorado.

Nationwide, the number of teacher education graduates has dropped 35% percent over the past five years, which amounts to a shortfall of nearly 240,000 teachers (NPR).

In Naropa’s home state, roughly 3,000 new teachers are needed, and that number expected to increase as many in the current workforce retire or leave their posts for higher paying jobs in more urban areas. As someone who understands that quality education is a crucial part of a healthy society, this strikes me (and many others) as nothing short of a crisis.

In and effort to understand the heart of this issue, I’ll be interviewing educators and students in exploration of the root causes of this shortage, and how we might remedy it.

At this point, I have a lot of questions. Certainly, pay and funding are significant issues worth considering, but I wonder if there is a deeper underlying cause to the shortage of good long-term teachers in this state and country.

What are the barriers of entry/deferring factors currently faced by those who want to teach? What do programs currently offered (in CO and nationwide) provide their graduates? How does Naropa plan to face these challenges? How does a contemplative approach differ from other preparation programs?

I invite you to join me as as I explore these questions, the detail of this new program, the vision of faculty, and the involvement, critiques, and celebrations of Naropa’s student body. If you have contributions or questions on the topic of teacher preparation, please contact me at admws-scliff@naropa.edu.

Samuel “Jasper” Cliff