While the teacher shortage continues to make headlines1, Wasatch High School has been working to fill the teacher pipeline since fall of 2018 when its “Teaching as a Profession” (TAPS) class was first introduced. This fall marks the first time TAPS alumni have been hired as first-year teachers by Wasatch County School District, with Class of 2019 grad Callie Robinson teaching English at Wasatch High School, and Class of 2020 grad Adelia Roberts teaching 4th grade at Heber Valley Elementary.
Helmed by WHS English Teacher, Kasie Payne, Teaching as a Profession is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway comprised of three classes – Teaching as a Profession I, II and III – plus a semester-long internship where students are placed in a classroom with a teacher, which means they get to have classroom experiences before they even reach college.
Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Educators Rising club, which is part of a national organization that cultivates the next generation of teachers by guiding students from high school through college and on to their teaching careers, with a focus on developing educators who reflect the demographics of their communities. This past spring, Wasatch’s Educator’s Rising chapter won first place in the state tournament, and Mrs. Payne was named Utah’s Educators Rising Teacher Leader of the Year.
Educators Rising also holds a “Return to Roots Signing Day” each spring, where graduating seniors who’ve completed the TAPS pathway or competed at conferences sign a pledge to enter the teaching profession. For their part, WCSD guarantees an interview once the students have completed their degrees.
With the popular program starting to reap benefits for Wasatch County School District, Mrs. Payne hopes it inspires students of all kinds to participate.
“When I think about my own children and what kind of teachers I want for them, I want all the different kinds of teachers,” Mrs. Payne said. “I want them to experience every single kind of teacher throughout their schooling. That’s why I think all kids should try teaching as a profession, whether they want to be a teacher or not, just so that they can decide for themselves whether that fulfillment of becoming a teacher … might be for them.”
She further noted that she’s had students interested in everything from creating children’s literature to public speaking, special education, speech language pathology, counseling and coaching sports.
“We need students in our Teaching as a Profession program who love school, and we need students in our Teaching as Profession program who have struggled through school,” she explained. “We need straight-A students and we need students who work really hard just to pass. And we need students from every background because our kids in the future deserve teachers who represent their own education struggles, their own communities, their own backgrounds, their own everything, so that they feel like they see themselves in the teachers in our buildings.”
According to first-year teacher Callie Robinson, it was Mrs. Payne’s passion for the profession that inspired her to pursue education as a career.
“I clearly remember sitting in her class and being like, ‘Wow, I just want to be like her’,” Mrs. Robinson recalls. “And I stuck with it, and then I went to Utah State and started my English teaching degree.”
Mrs. Robinson, who received her B.S in English Teaching at USU and completed her student teaching at Sky View High School in Logan, says returning to Wasatch to teach has been her dream since graduating high school in 2019 because of the way the local community reveres its teachers.
“Even as a student, I could see the support of the community and feel the love that our administration has for the students,” Mrs. Robinson said. “I am proud to be a part of this network of educators that are constantly innovating new and improved ways to educate students.”
Adelia Roberts, a first-year 4th Grade teacher at Heber Valley Elementary, graduated from Wasatch High School in 2020 and served as the first President of Educator’s Rising. She attended Utah Valley University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and student-taught 5th Grade at Midway Elementary School.
For Ms. Roberts, the opportunity to participate in a program like TAPS at the high school level is something she encourages all students interested in education to consider.
“Being able to explore that in high school (allows students) to see if it’s the right fit,” she explained. “And then if it is, you’re able to just start from a good level and just keep growing. And that’s the thing about education is you are always growing.”
Ms. Roberts added that TAPS is just one example of the breadth of opportunities offered to students in Wasatch that helps them explore future career opportunities.
“I love the opportunities that Wasatch provides for students,” Ms. Roberts said. “The whole district helps provide high level experiences to students interested in many different areas, and I love to be a part of building that in the elementary setting.”
1“Balingit, M. (2023, August 24) Teacher shortages have gotten worse. Here’s how schools are coping. The Washington Post