West Seneca Schools & Buff State tackle teacher shortage

Developing Future Teachers program
Posted at 5:04 PM, Nov 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-22 17:42:24-05

WEST SENECA, NY (WKBW) — There are repeated warnings about a nation-wide teacher shortage. Here in New York State it's estimated we will need 180,000 teachers over the next five years.

As 7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley tells us, the West Seneca Central School district is working to tackle the shortage.

First graders at West Elementary School.

First graders at West Elementary School listen up as their teacher asks for their attention.

Buffalo State senior Kennedy Kirby is an education major. But she's already in the classroom two days a week gaining valuable experience.

“I love the creativity that comes along with being a teacher and the excitement. I think it's something in other professions you don't really get. It's very rewarding,” said Kirby.

Kirby is among 35 buff state students in a program called Developing Future Teachers (DeF) teaching in eight area school districts designed to address a teaching shortage.

Buffalo State senior Kennedy Kirby in a West Elementary classroom.

This program is a win-win. The student teacher gets hands-on experience from the classroom - the district gets to tap into a qualified teacher when they need a substitute.

Buffalo State mathematics professor Sue McMillen stood outside the classroom Kirby was teaching. She described how critical this program is to rebuild a teaching workforce.

“I can say for our own - we used to have 40 to 50 student teachers who wanted to be secondary math teachers and now - in a year - we are lucky to have ten, so the numbers have really declined,” remarked McMillen,

President of the West Seneca Teachers Association Joe Cantafio tells 7 Eyewitness News retirements is a big factor for the teaching shortage.

“You know when you look at some of the numbers – they're pretty shocking – the fact that one third of all current teachers are eligible to retire right now,” noted Cantafio.

The union leader also said teacher colleges have also experienced a more than 50-percent drop in enrollment.

First graders at West Elementary School.

For Kirby, it places her in a classroom as an undergraduate before she would officially begin her student-teaching in a graduate program.

“I always say that there’s no experience more valuable to a teacher candidate than being in the classroom, so it’s really just that hands on experience – it’s getting the exposure,” Kirby stated.

This program provides a base of confidence for these future teachers.

“They’ll even say they want to participate to be build confidence before they student-teach – they’re not necessarily familiar with how schools work and the ins and outs of the day and how you may get interrupted all the time, but they adjust very quickly and it’s a good experience for them,” McMillen responded.

West Elementary School, West Seneca.

West Elementary is a kindergarten through 5 school.

“I’ve been in I think every grade now. Kindergarten through 5th – I’ve been in gym – I’ve been in music – so I’m really getting exposure to everything which is awesome,” described Kirby. “I have a particular niche for special ed.”

And if you're wondering what the students think of Kirby’s teaching skills. we caught a student offering his approval with a big ‘high-five’ with the student-teacher in the hallway.