The governor's office on Friday announced a new initiative that hopes to fill a shortage of educators in the state while also bringing a more diverse group of teachers to the classroom.
"This program Next Gen Educators specifically targets our education majors at the college level," said Shauna Tucker, Connecticut State Department Education chief talent officer. "We are exposing them to experiential learning in districts sooner rather than later."
Governor Ned Lamont made mention that it's important to have representation of all backgrounds in the classroom saying, "We're a champion for teachers and the most diverse pool that we can attract people of color, I would like to see more guys teaching in the younger grades so people can look up and see a role model."
With shortages in the classroom COVID-19 has sped up the process. Right now, Central Connecticut State University is partnering with the state's Department of Education to send students in the program to Bristol schools, but the hope is to expand to more universities and districts.
"This has been something that we've been working on at CCSU for quite some time but I would say the pandemic has allowed us to move at a rapid pace," said Dr. Kimberly Kostelis, dean of the CCSU School of Education and Professional Studies.
"Currently we have 18 in this cohort that's working with Bristol but we're hopeful that we will be able to expand it," she added.
The governor is looking to move college students into the classroom in the near future but Donald Williams, executive director for Connecticut Education Association said although he’s all for more inclusion in the classroom he’s not yet convinced how this new program will work in the era of COVID-19.
"It’s a little late in the game right now to start sending college students live and in-person into the classroom as more on schools are having COVID-19 cases arise in their schools, and having to shut down and ideally limit not expand but limit the number of folks coming from the outside into classroom," Williams said.
"We have to be prepared for a more robust and engaging online education system," he added, and that the program will have to fit that model.