How GCU is Helping Students Find Their Purpose in Teaching

By Leigh Critchley
Executive Director, Strategic Education Alliances

teacher sitting on chair reading book to students sitting on floor around her

Most of us in Arizona are aware that we have a teacher shortage in our state. I was aware of the issue, but it didn’t really hit home until last year when I attended a number of meetings with charter school administrators and representatives from the Grand Canyon University College of Education.

The meetings all followed a similar pattern. The school leader would highlight the unique qualities of their school and then express an interest in hosting GCU students for their practicum and student teaching experiences. They believed that once students had experience in their school, they would be more inclined to work there after graduation.

It turned out that there was a catch. Education students need to work with an experienced, certified teacher. The charter schools we met with only had a few certified teachers, if any, on their staff.

In one of the meetings I asked how many of our students were ready for student teaching. The answer was approximately 120. This is when the shortage hit home. I had recently been in a meeting where one of my co-workers said that there were over 800 open teaching positions in the state – and that was in December.

I can’t verify that number, but I think we can safely say there a significant number of openings. More than 120. How could we help charter schools when there weren’t enough students moving into student teaching that could fill the current openings?

Then it hit me. We have a lot of students graduating in fields such as science, psychology, history or English who will need jobs in the fall. Most of them aren’t aware that there may be opportunities in the field of education even if they have a degree in another field. And, a very large number would tell you that they love working with kids.

GCU is community-minded. We have hundreds of students involved in community outreach tutoring in neighborhood schools. Others are regularly working with kids on Saturdays in the Learning Lounge and a local neighborhood park. We have a huge pool of potentially great teachers.

This year, GCU launched the Explore Teaching Initiative designed to provide opportunities for students who haven’t considered teaching to spend time in local schools. Public, charter and private Christian schools were all equally excited about the opportunity to host GCU students in their schools.

We are actively marketing this opportunity to our students through information sessions. Students will have the opportunity to spend a few hours in a school where they can see a variety of classes and activities. They will also volunteer in schools where they can have a more in-depth experience. There will also be teacher recruitment fairs specifically for this population of students.

This has potential to help many of our students find their purpose while at the same time providing a much-needed pool of teachers to our local schools.

Grand Canyon University is committed to helping students find their purpose and supporting the community. To learn more, visit our website or contact us using the Request More Information button on this page.

More About Leigh:

Leigh Critchley joined Grand Canyon University in May 2009. As executive director in the Strategic Educational Alliances group, Leigh oversees the Canyon Educational Participant (CEP) program that provides opportunities and benefits to organizations and charter schools. During Leigh’s tenure at GCU, she started the Non-Degree Studies Department and launched the dual enrollment program. Leigh also participated in the development of the STEM Scholars program, which received White House recognition for providing underserved high school students with tuition-free college courses that lead to degrees in STEM fields. Before joining GCU, Leigh held director positions at the University of Phoenix and Gateway, and started an international division of a technical training company in London. Leigh earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Toronto and a Master of Education in Adult Education Distance Learning from the University of Phoenix. Leigh has a passion for travel and enjoys hiking both near and far.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.