Education Department Awarded $20K Grant to Help Ease Teacher Shortage
The education department at DeSales is stepping up to help solve a teacher shortage in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network has awarded the department a $20,000 grant over three years to help develop future special educators. The department’s goal—to attract local candidates to become certified in the new special education Pre-K-12 certification area.
“The state and the Pennsylvania Department of Education are starting to go into crisis mode because there are not enough teachers in certain areas, and one of them is special education,” says Katrin Blamey, Ph.D., chair of the education department and director of M.Ed. programs. “They’ve been working on new legislation, trying to think outside the box. One of those ways is to provide funding for other people to think outside the box.”
Danielle Kearns-Sixsmith, Ed.D., DeSales’ new director of field experiences, authored the grant application. Together, she and Blamey are looking to recruit paraprofessionals and instructional aides who are already in the field of special education, but who lack either an undergraduate degree or the proper certification.
“They’re not walking in naïve to the needs of special ed. A lot of times paraprofessionals could be in this field for 15 years, and they have a wealth of expertise and knowledge, but they just need the certification. We’re trying to help them earn the credentials that they need to move up, but they’re already doing the heavy lifting.”
Sixsmith and Blamey divided the grant into three phases: research to better understand the needs of the field, creating closer connections with local intermediate units, and focusing on sustainability and how to continue meeting the needs of adult students.
According to Blamey, the current teacher crisis has been building since 2015. She points to an aging workforce coupled with evolving student needs. The COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse.
“There is no solution on the table right now that is going to make it better—that’s not just in Pennsylvania, that’s across the board nationwide,” she says.
This isn’t the first time the education department has made moves to help ease the teacher shortage. DeSales was the first in Pennsylvania to offer the Special Education Pre-K-12 Intern Certification Program, which allows adult students to work as teachers while they earn certification.
Blamey and the department are also working on other unconventional opportunities for students this summer. Several special education field one students have partnered with Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network to work with students who require medical care, such as feeding tubes. Blamey will present the findings of the partnership at The Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators conference this fall.