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Facing staffing shortages, KENT ISD ‘teaching academy’ looks to fill education gap

High School students earn college credit while training to become tomorrow’s teachers.

In an effort to address staffing shortages that are plaguing West Michigan’s public schools, the Kent Intermediate School District has launched a new program that trains students to become the teachers of tomorrow.

The new school year is officially underway at a number of public schools in Kent County, however, officials say that across the board, districts are all facing substantial staffing shortages as kids return to the classroom, many districts, with open teaching positions that remain unfilled.

Officials say, part of the problem is that so many teachers retired during the pandemic when students had to switch to at home learning, leaving an employment gap that most districts have yet to recover from.

One long-term solution to the problem, says Kent Intermediate School District Officials, recruit high school students now, and point them towards a career in education before they get to college.

“And the notion is, if we can give them a jump start of what that career (in education) looks like before they enroll in college, they are going to be that much more successful when they pursue those passions and dreams.”

Chris Glass is the Assistant Superintendent of Legislative and Organizational Initiatives at Kent ISD. He explains how the “teacher academy” works.

“They learn foundational skills about what it means to manage a classroom, how to support early literacy instruction, how to support classroom behaviors and create a positive culture in the classroom,” Glass said. “And all of that generates college credit with our university partners, that they are able to take directly into the college experience; and what being a teacher entails as they continue their academic journey.”

Glass says, students work with mentor teachers throughout the program as well and have an opportunity to earn classroom paraprofessional certification.

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