Which Lancaster high school is teaching kids to be teachers—and giving them college credits to do it?

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By Ashley Adams

February 29, 2024

JP McCaskey High School is trying to help with Pennsylvania’s educator shortage by helping its high schoolers learn to be teachers.

LANCASTER—Schools throughout the commonwealth are struggling to find the most important part of any classroom: the teacher.

During the 2022-23 school year, more than 9,500 teachers in Pennsylvania left their jobs, according to a study done by the Penn State Center for Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

That’s a 1.5% increase from the prior year, and the largest spike in a decade.

And fewer teachers are coming in behind them. The Penn State study found that there were only 5,101 newly certified teachers in Pennsylvania in 2022.

While lawmakers are working to address the problem at the state policy level, such as including in the budget a Student Teacher Stipend Program which provides college students up to $10,000 while they are completing their student teaching, others, such as JP McCaskey High School, are finding more immediate ways to encourage Pennsylvania students to become teachers.

“We had a lot of teacher openings in the last few years and wanted to do something to address the teacher shortage that is happening not only here in Lancaster but throughout the state,” said Dr. Justin Reese, principal of JP McCaskey High School.

About 18 months ago, Reese said the school started looking into the Educators Rising program.

Educators Rising is a national program that provides a curriculum, training, and support to high school students who want to begin their journey to becoming future educators early.

Reese said McCaskey High School started a part-time pilot of the program this year, with 40 students in the 11th and 12th grades currently enrolled.

“Students spend part of their day, about two or three periods, in an ‘introduction to teacher education’ class while also getting field experience,” Reese said. “Some students go out to our elementary schools every day, some teach mini lessons. It’s just like student teaching. They are learning about curriculum and lesson plans and all the things they need to be great teachers.”

The school has also launched a unique partnership with Millersville University to provide up to 12 college credits to students who complete the Educators Rising program.

It’s going so well already, Reese said, that he wants the school board to institute it on a full-time basis.

“The hands-on experience and the innovation of it is what is really great about the program,” he said. “It is really helping our students be in a better position to be excellent teachers in the future who, hopefully, come back and teach here or elsewhere in the state.”

But it’s not just about the quality of the program, Reese said. It’s about what it’s doing for his students.

“They are thrilled to be a part of the program and to see they are meeting a need in the state they grew up in. It is also reaffirming to them that teaching is exactly what they want to do.

“This program is preparing them for the future, and getting a new generation of teachers excited about the profession again.”

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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