Fresno State hopes to fill teacher shortage with conference for high school students

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Donna Glassman-Sommer says there's never been a better time than now to become a teacher.

She's the executive director of the California Center on Teaching Careers.

And on Friday, she served as keynote speaker at Fresno State's first Make a Difference - Teach conference in the South Valley.

"Today we're talking about the change in education and as we change in the classroom to create 21st century classrooms, creating 21st century teachers and making sure that we have the best quality people here in the Valley," said Glassman-Sommer.

There's a teacher shortage in the Valley, and Glassman-Sommer says there are a variety of reasons why.

One of the main ones - baby boomers are retiring.

So it's no secret that the purpose of this event is to help fill the void, by encouraging these students to consider a teaching career.

"We want to provide them with information, with ideas, with perspectives on what the profession of teaching is all about, and some of that may be beyond their own experiences as a student in public schools to other kinds of ideas like being a special education teacher, being a school psychologist, being a school counselor," said Dr. Frederick Nelson, chair of Fresno State's Department of Liberal Studies.

One option presented to the high school students was the accelerated South Valley Integrated Teacher Education Program at the Fresno State Visalia campus, where transfer students can become credentialed teachers in two years.

"As far as school goes, we're just a few years beyond them, so we have that sort of connection," said Sheena Briceno, a current ITEP student. "And so I think that we can get them to understand that it's hard right now, it's almost over, you just gotta keep going."

Golden West High School senior Adriana Sandoval needed no convincing on Friday.

Her heart is set on becoming a special education teacher.

"I do work with special needs students at my school and I have previous experience," Briceno said. "It's beautiful, being a teacher's beautiful and I can't wait."

The time is ripe for students like Sandoval to commit to a career in teaching.

There's a critical need, and once they're ready to apply for that first job, they'll have many positions to choose from.

A special scholarship is available for COS students that plan to transfer into the Fresno State ITEP Program.

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