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The Secretary Of Education On Why The ED’s New Teacher Campaign Is Important For Gen Z

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Whether you’re an education major or not, you may have noticed there is a teacher shortage plaguing the U.S., particularly when it comes to racial diversity in the classroom. The high cost of college education and setbacks in student loan forgiveness aren’t helping the issue. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has been working hard over the last couple of years to give American children and educators a better chance. They have an exciting new campaign called “Teachers: Leaders Shaping Lives,” which aims to inspire the next generation of new and underrepresented educators — which could include you. 

To elevate respect for teachers and increase teacher diversity, the ED partnered with TEACH.org and One Million Students of Color. They released a PSA on Nov. 9 which centers teachers as the skilled leaders they are, inspiring and mentoring the next generation. The campaign comes off the back of several other initiatives undertaken by the Department of Education in recent years, such as increasing teacher pay, implementing student teacher apprenticeship programs, and establishing grant programs that target educator diversity.

According to an August 2023 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 79% of public schools reported facing challenges in finding qualified educators to fill their open teaching positions. The Washington Post reported in August that some schools are hiring underqualified candidates as a stopgap measure in the face of rising teacher turnover. Concerningly, 2021 data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that around 54% of public school students were of color, while only 20% of teachers identified as non-white or multiracial. 

As U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona points out, the problem isn’t a lack of talent, but getting students to commit to a career in education with rising challenges in the sector. “The reality is we’ve always asked them to do more with less … and especially with the pandemic, it exacerbated some of the challenges,” Cardona tells Her Campus. Cardona also cites low levels of respect and pay for a profession that deserves it. 

The disparity between students of color and teachers of color is also contributing to the shortage. “It’s harder to be what you can’t see,” Cardona says. “In many cases, our students of color in our schools don’t see themselves as potential teachers. They never had [a teacher who looked like them].” That’s why his department spearheaded programs like the Augustus Hawkins Program and the “Teachers: Leaders Shaping Lives” campaign to bring more teachers of color into the education sector. 

As a former educator of color himself, Cardona is committed to increasing diversity in the teaching profession. “I knew as a student that having teachers of color helped engage me and made me feel more comfortable, more seen,” Cardona explains. “Then when I became a teacher, when I became a school principal, I knew how important it was. When I talked to students In Spanish, they felt connected.” Research from The Brookings Institute confirms that teachers of color have a positive impact on test scores, pathways to college, and suspension levels for students of color. 

In general, students benefit not only from having fully staffed classrooms, but also leaders who are fully representative of the population. “It’s really teaching our kids about global citizenry, and accepting differences, and celebrating what makes us unique,” Cardona says. 

The ED has already seen positive results from their efforts to help revitalize careers in education. 29 states increased teacher salaries within the last year, and 28 states now have paid apprenticeships for student teachers. The Department is also working closely with state and local leaders to equip high school students with the tools they need to become great teachers. 

Cardona stresses the impact teachers have on the overall success of the country. “It makes all other professions possible,” Cardona says. “To those who are listening right now … we want to make sure that you’re a part of this movement to make our country stronger. The more diverse and the more representative of the students that we serve, the better we’re going to be as a country.” 

Whether you’re thinking about becoming a teacher in the future or not, you can help fill the need for tutors, mentors, and coaches for kids across the U.S. The National Partnership for Student Success connects young adults with volunteer and employment opportunities and helps address the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on student success. For those who are ready to take the next step to a rewarding career in teaching, TEACH.org is your go-to resource. Here, you can explore careers, streamline the teaching certification process, and find financial aid. No matter your situation, you can be a part of the community helping children and the country succeed. 

Lia Freeman is a Her Campus National Writer for the Career and Life sections. She writes weekly articles along with covering more timely content. She recently graduated from the University of Sheffield in England, where she majored in philosophy, religious studies and ethics. Lia was the opinion editor for her university newspaper and the Deputy Head of News at her university's radio station. She also interned with a humanitarian journalist team called The India Story Agency, where she did social media, background research, and writing for work appearing in the British Medical Journal. Lia has freelanced in news and lifestyle for The Tab, Empoword Journalism, and Liberty Belle Magazine. She also occasionally publishes her own stories on Medium! Lia loves road-tripping and camping with her friends, and pretending she could be a Wimbledon star on the tennis court. Oftentimes you'll find her lost in a book or lost online. She is passionate about covering social issues and education, and hearing women's voices in the media.