UConn Neag program makes changes to improve CT’s teacher shortage

A photo of the Charles B. Gentry Building taken on Jan. 29, 2023. The building is home to the Neag School of Education at UConn. Photo by Skyler Kim/Staff Photographer Daily Campus.

The UConn Neag School of Education has expanded their enrollment and program outreach in an effort to minimize the teacher shortage in Connecticut. 

Neag provides accepted undergraduate students with a 5-year plan to earn their master’s degree and a teaching license in the state of Connecticut post-graduation, Neag School of Education Dean Jason Irizarry said. Students apply to the Integrated Bachelor and Master’s program in their sophomore year at UConn.  

Starting in their junior year, students are placed in a different district each semester where they student teach, sixth semester special education major Hannah Gariepy said. 

Gariepy expressed how student teaching has shaped her interests within the field of teaching that she plans to use one day in a classroom of her own. 

“I’ve really started diving into instructional approaches this semester, learning about explicit and direct instruction and evidence-based methods for teaching all students, but specifically students with disabilities,” Gariepy said. 

Neag recently partnered with the UConn Stamford campus for the first time to expand its program to that campus and serve the surrounding area, Irizarry explained. 

“We expanded into Fairfield county, partnering with UConn’s Stamford campus to better serve folks in that region. That program also is more online work, in hopes that it is more accessible to folks around the state, not just in Fairfield county,” Irizarry said. 

Stark numbers in recent years have shown the decline in the amount of teachers in Connecticut, a press release said.  

“According to a recent report published by the Connecticut Department of Education, the state had 1,221 teaching vacancies and another 1,322 paraprofessional vacancies going into the 2022-2023 school year,” a press release said.  

The term “teacher shortage” is often misinterpreted, Director of Teacher Education and associate professor of curriculum and instruction Alyssa Hadley Dunn highlighted.  

“It’s not so much of an issue of a shortage. There are not enough teachers not because there weren’t enough prepared, but because the working conditions are so poor that teachers are leaving,” Dunn said. “It’s not an issue of recruitment, it’s an issue of retention.” 

Dunn explained the importance not only of Neag programs expanding and their recent increases in enrollment, but the community the program creates for future teachers.  

“UConn is trying to ensure that when Neag students get into classrooms that they have a network of support to prevent them from feeling isolated and alone. Because we know one of the main reasons teachers leave nationally is because they feel like they have no voice,” Dunn said.  

As the entire country faces difficulties keeping teachers in their positions, UConn’s Neag program has worked hard to combat the crisis as much as possible, Dunn said. 

“Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. So if it’s not a good place to work then it’s not a good place to learn,” Dunn said.  

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