Across-the-board teacher shortage in New York State is creating a strong need for secondary educators.
Clarkson University has received approval from the New York State Education Department to add Russian Language to its Adolescence 7-12 program.
This is the seventh language offered in the Master of Arts in Teaching program and prepares students to teach language at a high-school level. Clarkson also certifies teachers of Chinese, French, German, Greek, Latin, and Spanish.
Clarkson Department of Education Chair Catherine Snyder says that there is a huge demand for high school foreign language teachers in New York State.
"We have had 100 percent job placement among foreign language candidates for the past five years," says Snyder. "We currently have no unemployed foreign language alumni -- in fact, districts are competing for certified foreign language teachers.
"If you're someone interested in teaching foreign language at a secondary level, you should come to us. We have a lot in experience prepping foreign language teachers, at the secondary level. Also, most schools of education only offer Spanish and French certification. We offer certification in seven languages."
The typical foreign language candidates in the Master of Arts in Teaching program are generally either students who majored in French or Spanish, or Native speakers of a language. The bi-lingual students are often career changers, who have always had an interest in teaching.
Snyder believes that with today's global situation it is particularly important to provide high school students with a world view. "One way to do this is through an introduction to other cultures through language," she says. "High school language teachers have a very important role in educating our citizens."
Russian is only taught at three secondary schools in the Capital Region and Clarkson wasn't considering offering the language until they were approached by Galina Kats, the Foreign Language Department supervisor at Shaker High School in the North Colonie Central School District.
"Shaker has three Russian teachers and is very committed to maintaining the program,” says Snyder. "Ms. Kats contacted me to ask why we weren't certifying Russian. She wanted to insure that future Russian teachers were being prepared for her program and for others."
Clarkson will partner with Shaker for teacher placements and residencies.
Snyder says that the foreign language teacher shortage is indicative of an across-the-board teacher shortage in most fields across New York State.
"Earlier this month, we graduated 26 students from our MAT program, 80 percent of whom have been hired already," she says. "That's unprecedented. Most of our students are usually hired after graduation during the summer. It's chaotic, with students doing interviews at two or three schools, receiving multiple offers and higher-than-usual starting salaries."
Snyder says that the shortages stem back to the Great Recession, when schools laid off the newest teachers. Now there is a gap in the three main cohorts of teachers, with most schools missing teachers with good experience, yet not too far along in their careers.
"That group of teachers was gutted by recession," she says. "It's frightening to think that there are so many retiring school teachers and that the average age of teachers is now 48."
Snyder is working hard to fill that gap and is already planning Clarkson's next language offering. She says that the next certification may be in Mohawk and that the University is planning to partner with the Salmon River Central School District and its superintendent, Stanley Harper.