Arnold Rosas has always enjoyed being in a classroom. ”I don’t know why that was, but I loved learning,” he says. Now, as an aspiring teacher, he encourages students in Newark, New Jersey, to love the things he loved. On a recent morning those things included decimals and the power of 10.
As a Mexican-American teacher, Rosas is a role model for many of the Latinx students at Salomé Ureña Elementary School, especially the boys for whom Rosas is one of their first male teachers. He also shares with the fifth graders the research opportunities college offers. “I can see the excitement in their eyes because they are interested in science, too. I’ve seen it,” he says. His students’ enthusiasm fuels his passion for a profession that, among its many challenges, is facing a severe teacher shortage.
For years, Montclair State University has stepped up to help solve the problems schools have in hiring and retaining teachers. Rosas is a senior Mathematics major who will also earn his teacher certification as part of a cohort of future teachers graduating from Montclair’s Transformative Education Network – known by its acronym TEN – that prepares anti-racist teacher-activists in Newark and Orange public schools.
TEN’s flagship programs, the Urban Teacher Residency and Newark Teacher Project, have been credited for high success rates in recruiting and training teachers – and for providing professional development in the early years of their careers.
“There’s scaffolding where I become independent piece by piece,” says Rosas, a Newark Teacher Project resident. “I’m always in contact with people to improve my teaching. I’m not doing it by myself.”
A growing teacher shortage is a concern nationally and in New Jersey, where fewer people are entering the profession, nearly half of new teachers leave the classroom in their first five years, say Teaching and Learning professors and TEN co-directors Bree Picower and Tanya Maloney.
“The teaching shortage is a national crisis, but we have found that when aspiring educators are prepared to understand the political and social context they are entering and provide the tools and support to navigate the challenges they will face, they better understand their purpose. This helps to sustain them because they see the bigger picture and understand their role in service to the communities in which they teach,” Picower says.
The state is working to remove some of the obstacles to becoming a teacher. In December, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a relaxation of one of the more controversial requirements for entering the field: the edTPA performance assessment. A state task force is underway to look at other options, with a deadline at the end of January.
Meanwhile, Montclair is again answering the clarion call to find solutions. It is actively recruiting its next cohort for the Urban Teacher Residency and Newark Teacher Project. Information webinars will be:
- Wednesday, January 11, 2023, at 6 p.m.
- Thursday, January 26, 2023, at 6 p.m.
- Thursday, February 23, 2023, at 6 p.m.
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