March/April 2022 Issue
February 20, 2022

NYSUT awards more ‘Grow Your Own’ grants to stem teacher shortage

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
take a look at teaching
Caption: University at Albany professor Tammy Ellis-Robinson, second from left, welcomes Capital Region high school students and K-12 professionals, participants in the new Equity in Education Explorations council. The group is planning a summit in May. NYSUT’s Take a Look at Teaching initiative is funding dozens of local “Grow Your Own” projects to encourage students to consider teaching in their own communities. Photo provided.

Sometimes all it takes is a tap on the shoulder from a trusted teacher, an afterschool tutoring program — or an inspiring college visit to plant a seed for a future educator.

“There are so many ways for us to nurture aspiring teachers, and often the best place to start is right in our own communities,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango. “It’s about eliminating barriers and providing support all along the way.” To plant more seeds, NYSUT has awarded a second round of “Grow Your Own” grants to more than a dozen local unions planning a variety of activities to encourage more people to consider a career in education.

The $4,000-$5,000 GYO grants will go to: East Syracuse-Minoa United Teachers, Farmingdale Federation of Teachers, Lansingburgh Teachers Association, Lewiston-Porter UT, Long Beach Classroom TA, Newark TA, Niagara Wheatfield TA, Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers, Port Jefferson Station TA, Rockville Centre TA, Saranac TA, Starpoint TA and Windsor TA.

The grants are an outgrowth of NYSUT’s Take a Look at Teaching initiative, which began four years ago to address the teacher shortage and improve diversity in the educator workforce. The union-led initiative is funded through a three-year, $675,000 grant from the National Education Association.

In a conference call with local union leaders, DiBrango noted the latest round of applications focus on first-generation college-bound high school students; rural school initiatives; engaging families and paraprofessionals; and attracting more students of color into education careers. Grants will be used for TALAT clubs, after-school programs, internships, expansion of career and technical programs, mentoring experiences, guest speakers and college campus visits.

Research has shown that GYO programs can be a highly effective way to boost recruitment and retention. A study of GYO programs found that not only do they help teaching candidates become certified and get jobs, participants are more likely to stay in the profession in the long run. “GYO participants are connected and committed to their communities and are more likely to stay,” DiBrango said. “They are also strong role models for future generations.”

A study by the Pathways to Teaching Career initiative found that retention rates tend to be higher for GYO participants. Of the teachers who participated in GYO programs, 81 percent were still teaching three years later, compared to 71 percent of beginning teachers overall. And for School-Related Professionals who went through the program, the three-year retention rate was 88 percent.

NYSUT’s website offers a variety of resources for GYO efforts, including how to start a Take a Look at Teaching Club and a model course of study with a menu of activities. A TALAT Google classroom is in the works to provide a collaborative space to share engagement, exploration and immersion ideas. The materials are free for anyone interested in encouraging more people to consider education careers.

Last fall, NYSUT awarded a first round of GYO grants to a dozen local unions: Brentwood Teacher Center, Greece TA, North Syracuse EA, Pittsford TA, Sag Harbor TA, Spencerport TA, Syracuse TA, Utica TA, West Irondequoit TA, Yonkers Federation of Teachers, United Federation of Teachers and Suffolk County Community College FA.

Projects funded through United University Professions include grants for University at Albany, Buffalo State, Empire State College, Binghamton University and SUNY Plattsburgh. “Our grants are meant to get folks started, but more funding is needed to make these programs sustainable and truly successful,” DiBrango said.