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Incoming class of UK students steps up to fill teacher pipeline

group photo of incoming students who are majoring in teacher education programs

The number of incoming students enrolling in programs that lead to teacher certification is growing at the University of Kentucky.

Preliminary data shows the UK College of Education’s incoming Fall 2022 class of teacher preparation program students has:

  • increased in size by 83% between Fall 2019 and Fall 2022, going from 118 to 216; and
  • increased in diversity, with the number of students of color increasing 275% during the same time period, going from 12 to 45.

Diversity among aspiring teachers could help deliver the benefits of a more diverse teacher workforce toKentucky’s students, said UK College of Education Dean Julian Vasquez Heilig

“Increasing diversity among teachers and recruiting more students to backfill the teacher pipeline amid a growing shortage in the U.S. is at the top of nearly every education school’s agenda,” Vasquez Heilig said. “The number one question we are hearing right now is ‘how did you do it?’ We are showing it is possible to do this work. This generation is motivated by having a purpose, and our efforts have centered on showing how this is a career in which you can leave a legacy.”

During one-on-one meetings, group presentations, and on social media platforms such as Instagram, College of Education student ambassadors regularly share glimpses into their lives as college students and future educators.

“The ambassadors help empower their peers who have the heart to become a teacher to choose similar paths, which is especially helpful for those students who have been encouraged to look at other careers outside teaching. Sometimes they just need to see someone who is following their true calling and the passion they have in their classes and careers,” said UK College of Education Director of Recruitment Jenna Demastes.

Communication efforts, similar to those employed by the Kentucky Department of Education’s GoTeachKY program, also focus on elevating the teaching profession to help students see the value of majors in teacher education.

“The students making career choices today see a need and want to be part of the solution. They want meaningful careers that contribute to the better world they desire. In this space, teacher education programs have something unique to offer Generation Z,” Vasquez Heilig said.

Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education senior Meghan Harless always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Like many promising students who aspire to teach, mentors encouraged her to explore various other options. Harless gained early teaching experience during college that helped her make the decision to pursue education.

“During my decision process, I worked in an early childhood center. I saw that while we go into the classroom thinking about what we can give our students, we leave realizing our students gave us so much more,” Harless said.

To learn more about teacher preparation programs at UK, visit https://education.uky.edu/admissions/heart/.