Educators say a looming teacher shortage in New York state could be a crisis if more people don't go into the profession.
On Thursday evening at Monroe Community College, teachers, high school and college students, professors and policymakers will attend a summit aimed at inspiring a new generation to become teachers.
MCC Faculty Association President Bethany Gizzi will be one of the discussion leaders.
She pointed to demographic and cultural factors as possible reasons for the lack of teachers, such as younger New Yorkers relocating to other states and a lack of emphasis on teaching in the media. Gizzi also said recent controversies over the Common Core learning standards, test scores, and teacher evaluations haven't helped.
"When we're seeing an environment where funding is continuously cut for schools, particularly schools that are in need, and yet the responsibility — and in many cases, the blame — is going to teachers for those schools failing, it's difficult to be a teacher in that kind of environment," she said.
According to the New York State United Teachers union, enrollment in the state's teacher education programs has plummeted 47 percent in the last 10 years.
At the same time, an estimated one-third of New York's teachers could retire in the next five years.
"Because there's a teacher shortage," Gizzi said, "there's going to be a wealth of job opportunities available for people in New York state, so this is a time when we can encourage folks to look toward a career path that will actually be open to them."
Another point of discussion at Thursday's “Take a Look at Teaching” summit is the need to diversify the teaching field. Statewide, 43 percent of students are Latino or African-American, while only 16 percent of teachers are.
Gizzi wants students and career-changers to see teaching as a worthy profession.
"Teachers are not glorified babysitters," she said. "They're trained experts in their field. Every student has that story of a teacher who touched them; a teacher who helped them and impacted their life in a positive way."
Thursday's summit takes place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the High Falls A and B building at Monroe Community College's downtown campus, 321 State St.