Manteca Unified has many solid teachers including a healthy number of “home grown” educators.
At the same time the school district — through various aggressive initiatives — has been barely keeping ahead of the teacher shortage that has been growing in recent years. Forecasts show colleges are generating 14,000 teachers a year while the annual need is 20,000.
Much of that is driven by retirement or teachers changing careers. Manteca Unified is blessed — or cursed depending upon your perspective — to have a number of other factors at work that are increasing the demand for teachers locally. Those factors include some of the strongest growth in California, an increasing birth rate, class-size reduction being implemented, and a willingness to tell teachers that do not yet enjoy tenure that their services are no longer needed if they don’t meet expected Manteca Unified standards.
It is against that backdrop the Manteca Unified School District board rolled out the Advantage Future Teacher Pathway:
uIt establishes a career portal for students to explore not just in terms of whether teaching is a passion they really want to pursue but arming them with the knowledge of what it will take to get there.
uIt cultivates a home grown pool of future teachers.
uIt addresses “floundering” that often occurs for those who are trying to pursue career paths by educating students of land mines, if you will, that lie ahead navigating college where misinformation or simply not knowing can get them in situations that can add years to them reaching the point they can secure a teaching credential.
uIt provides employment opportunities during a student’s post-secondary education as Manteca Unified will work with them first to fill part-time jobs during the school year and summer jobs that the district always has to fill.
uIt also creates a readily available pool of students that are going to be getting work out of the way early on their path to becoming a teacher that qualifies them for hard to fill para-professional teaching aide positions.
uIt can reduce student education costs by securing 9 college credits at no charge at their high school allowing them to enroll in key classes their first semester of college.
uIt allows Manteca Unified to track early on those students pursuing degrees in hard to secure disciplines such a math, science, and special education.
uIt assures participants — once they are employment ready — a guaranteed interview. Obviously if the district determines at that point they are lacking they won’t get hired. By putting qualified and able candidates from the Advantage Future Teacher Pathway at the front of the line it removes the worry about finding employment.
Manteca Unified has been staying a step ahead of the teaching hiring shortage problem by offering the highest overall compensation for public school teachers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and conditionally hiring teachers on the spot at annual job fairs in February for the upcoming school year that starts in August. If that hired teacher needs a job meanwhile, they are employed as substitute teachers within Manteca Unified.
The program is in its second year and obviously hasn’t yet produced its first teacher hire for the district.
When the program was first announced critics noted it would take five years to produce employable teachers. Without a guarantee that any students in the program would be hired as Manteca Unified teachers, critics viewed it as an ill-thought out idea. They even took a pot shot or two claiming it would generate nepotism of sorts since it essentially gives hiring preference to qualified teaching candidates that go through the program.
The first concern was addressed by building the Advantage Future Teacher Pathway as part of the Career & Technical Education effort the district is enhancing to help students be more focused and have the tools needed to pursue choices in post-secondary education programs. While the intent is to build up a teacher pool for Manteca Unified by developing ongoing working ties as well as mentoring, it will serve students choosing the teaching career path well no matter where they end up teaching.
How this is a form of nepotism is a bizarre charge. What the few who have uttered such an accusation must mean is they view it as a form of “in breeding” which implies by taking teaching candidates first out of essentially a closed pool means you will eventually dilute the quality of faculties.
Get a grip. This district graduates upwards of 2,000 students a year from an area that has some of the most diversified social economic population in the country. And, yes, a handful of the future teachers that are likely to be future Manteca Unified employees may have parents that already teach here. You might want to check out the examples of offspring following in the footsteps of a parent that teaches locally.
Manteca Unified personnel in charge of the teacher pathway program are not only taking it seriously but are tapping into impressive regional resources such as the San Francisco Exploratorium to customize the best possible program.
By doing it from bottom up the district can reduce pitfalls for students and even the district that would come from the program being steered at the post-secondary level greatly raises the chances for the endeavor to succeed.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.