Pedro Isao Mori
Despite a decline nationally in students entering teacher education programs, California and the University of La Verne specifically have experienced an enrollment increase.
A member survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges for Teachers Education published in 2020 found that roughly 40% of universities nationally expected a significant decrease, of 11% or more, in new students to their teacher education programs in 2020, though only 19% of universities actually experienced such a significant decrease in student enrollment when the school year began.
Joy Springer, assistant professor and director of teacher education at La Verne, said new student enrollment in teacher ed here actually increased significantly in the fall of 2020 – with an additional 72 students to her program.
There seems to be an upward trend in those entering teacher ed across the state, added Hazel Kelly, spokesperson for the California State University chancellor’s office. Cal State preliminary data found a small increase in the total enrolled in teacher education systemwide between fall 2020 and fall 2021.
While the number of students entering higher education between 2019 and 2021 has decreased by roughly 1 million nationwide, attributable to the pandemic and economic reasons, increasing enrollment to the state’s teacher education programs is striking.
At La Verne, students and faculty in teacher education considered the challenges and adaptations of the past two years.
Senior educational studies major Monica Edaburn said the field work requirements and modifications because of COVID made the process challenging.
“I didn’t have observations, I wasn’t able to go into a classroom,” said Edaburn. “I had to just watch videos, which was great because I got good examples. But it’s nothing like the hands-on in person experience at all.”
Anita Flemington, professor of teacher education, agrees that hands-on experience is imperative and that the videos should serve as a guiding tool only for most students in the early stages of their education.
Senior educational studies major Adrian Villaman, said he missed the interpersonal contact.
“The one thing that is missing is that connection to the school and the environment,” Villaman said. “But the one thing that the school has done a good job is transferring the content from in-person to online.”
Another topic in the AACTE report was consideration of race and ethnicity in teacher education curriculum, as well as the challenges of recruiting diverse students into the teaching profession.
“We are trying to recruit more Black (students),” Flemington said. “And we have almost no Asian (students) in the teacher ed program. That’s something we need to look at and we struggle with for a variety of reasons.”
Villaman said that the University’s education curriculum is inclusive.
“Being in class, we learn a lot about being in a diverse environment and teaching to diverse populations,” Villaman said.
Both statewide and nationally, the pandemic has put a tremendous strain on teachers, most of whom had to switch unexpectedly to remote teaching for a year or more, and then had to return to challenging classroom environments, where they were on the front lines of managing an increase in students’ mental health challenges, among the other challenges that COVID brought.
The Cal State chancellor’s office cited COVID and hybrid learning as one of its biggest challenges for everyone involved in higher education.
Pedro Isao Mori can be reached at email@example.com.