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COMMENTARY–Businesses Must Aid in Recognizing Teachers

In his January 2000 State of the State Address, California Gov. Gray Davis said, “After parents, teachers are California’s greatest force for social good. They are exceptional people doing extraordinary things. Good teachers are vital to all of us.”

The governor was right on point. Teaching is the noblest of professions and all of us, the business community included, must do all we can to encourage more people , young, mid-career and retired , to consider teaching as a first, second or third career.

The fact is, this state will need an estimated 300,000 new teachers over the next 10 years. That presents California with an enormous challenge, but one that can be met if we pull together and partner with public higher education to make certain no one is left behind.

For example, the California state university system, which educates fully 60 percent of California’s teachers and 10 percent of teachers nationwide, has several programs designed to encourage people to become teachers and to help educators teaching in our public schools without a credential earn one while they continue teaching.

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But, it’s not enough just to encourage people to become teachers. We must also let them know that in California, teachers are appreciated and greatly valued. One CSU program that has been assisted by corporate sponsorship and which recognizes excellence is CSU Celebrating Teachers.

Honoring Current Instructors

CSU Celebrating Teachers is an annual event sponsored by the CSU system and the CSU Alumni Council that recognizes teachers who have demonstrated the highest level of dedication to the teaching profession, who use innovative teaching techniques, are fully committed to their students and serve as an “inspirational example of the role of the teacher as a hero, role model, a wise educator and a sage counselor to our children.”

Just this month the California state Senate and Assembly each honored 22 superior teachers , one from each CSU campus , with a resolution and public expression of gratitude on behalf of all the people of California. In addition, Gov. Davis declared Feb. 7 as “CSU Celebrating Teachers Day” in California.

CalTeach is another important program run by CSU in conjunction with the University of California, the state Department of Education, and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, among others. CalTeach is a one-stop information, referral and recruitment center designed to encourage the best and the brightest from all walks of life and all backgrounds to become teachers.

CalTeach, with funding from the governor and the Legislature, is conducting a public outreach effort, including television ads, to educate college students, retirees and mid-career people about the rewards of teaching and how to become an educator. In addition, with the assistance of corporate partners, CalTeach was able to expand its outreach. Additional partners are still needed.

Monthly Honors

Another exciting partnership has been developed between major California television stations and CalTeach. Called “Teacher of the Month,” stations in several major California media markets are honoring teachers who have shown they are the best of the best, and bring something special each day to the classroom and their students. Many of these stations are also providing a link to the CalTeach Web site (www.calteach.com), all designed to encourage Californians to consider teaching as a career.

The demand for new teachers is immense and immediate. As a result, some California public schools arc turning to “emergency” credentialed educators. While these teachers are dedicated professionals, they are not fully certified under state standards.

CSU has responded to this situation by developing a nontraditional top-flight teacher education program called CalStateTeach (www.calstateteach.net). Using the latest technology, including the Internet, video, audio and print materials, along with on-site instruction, this program delivers high-quality teacher education directly to teachers enabling them to become fully credentialed in 18 months. Corporate sponsors could partner with the CSU by providing scholarships to students who want to avail themselves of this important new program, but who need additional financial assistance.

Public/private partnerships are not new, but they are needed now more than ever. And, while it is the responsibility of all Californians to take an active role in the education of our young people, business, which depends on a well-educated work force, has an added obligation to partner with the higher education community to ensure our students have the qualified teachers they need to reach their full potential.

Kim is president and Barhorst is vice president of Aetna Financial Services-U.S., one of the sponsors of both CSU Celebrating Teachers and CalTeach.

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