Fresno State's "Make a Difference" teach conference addresses teacher shortage in California

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many teachers are retiring and school districts are growing in population. So, Fresno State is getting a jump start on a solution by recruiting high school students preparing them for the teaching profession before they go to college.

"Why not teach? Why not be that person who changes someone's life?" said Martin Suarez, teacher.

That question was asked Friday morning to hundreds of high schools interested in becoming teachers.

Fresno State's "Make a Difference" teach conference is addressing the issue of a growing need for teachers in California.

"Fresno State is the largest producer of any of the public universities in California of teachers. And our Liberal Studies program which is the preferred pathway that they take to become elementary teachers is the largest one in the CSU System," said Dr. Fred Nelson, Department Chair for Liberal Studies at Fresno State.

He pointed out that recruitment needs to start before high school students apply to college.

"Make a Difference" offers a unique opportunity for students to learn about the teaching profession through a variety of breakout sessions.

One particular session focused on lessons from video games about being a good teacher.

"I think we as a profession we need to improve on is sometimes we just think about games as things like rewards or ways to kind of extremely motivate students to do things," said Dr. Earl Aguilera, Fresno State Professor.

The game "Super Mario Brothers" taught a classroom full of students that failure can be a good thing as long as you learn from your mistakes.

One student noticed another connection from that same lesson.

"I worked with a group of fourth graders last year who were constantly talking about the video games they were playing and so having a connection level connecting that to teaching will really help you put your mind to it," said Melissa Hickey, Clovis North High School Student.

Other breakout session included conversations with teachers and school administrators and how to apply to Fresno State and the university's liberal studies program.

Students from Fresno, Clovis and Sanger Unified attended Friday's conference. Next year university officials hope to expand by partnering with the Tulare County Office of Education to recruit more students from South Valley high schools.
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