$900,000 grant to benefit teachers across Kansas

Research shows that early career teachers who have no support network can become overwhelmed and tend to be short-lived in the teaching profession — especially Career and Technical Education Teachers, who often are the only people in their districts teaching their subjects.

A nearly $900,000 grant awarded to Greenbush – The Southeast Kansas Education Service Center aims to help those teachers at public schools across Kansas by partnering with the Kansas Center for Career and Technical Education at Pittsburg State University to enhance its mentoring program.

At the KCCTE, efforts got underway four years ago to help first- and second-year Career and Technical Education teachers through mentoring, workshops, and downloadable curriculum.

“These are teachers who have unique challenges: As new teachers they have few resources and survival strategies,” said Greg Belcher, director of the KCCTE. “But the longer they’re in the classroom, the more they become disconnected to the field about which they’re teaching. It’s a Catch 22.”

“We want them to have resources like teaching tips, surviving your first year, things they can download like lesson plans, activities, assessments, for their entire course. But we also want to help them stay current on their industry skills through technical workshops. Basically, we exist to increase the chances that teachers in the classroom will be successful and will stay.”

The grant-funded project has four objectives: improve current mentoring practice by developing an online Community of Practice; develop five Explorations modules in conjunction with the New Teacher Center (a national non-profit with expertise in mentoring and new teacher induction programs); institute a statewide public marketing campaign to increase awareness of CTE mentoring opportunities; and maintain a mentor to mentee ratio of no more than 1:7.

Partnering with Greenbush and other organizations on the project will take the KCCTE’s work to the next level, Belcher said.

“We’ll be able to bring in outside mentors to assist in helping first and second year teachers across the state—to assess their needs and determine how we can help,” he said.

Funded under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the grant was written by Greenbush personnel and awarded as part of the High School Career and Technical Education Teacher Pathway Initiative. It was one of just five applicants to score high enough to be chosen.

Greenbush’s role in the project will be administrative; the Education Service Center will serve as the fiscal agent and will provide a project director, Marie Hall.

Hall noted that current labor market needs are not being met in several industries, and that this grant could have a positive impact.

“In order to have students ready to enter high-demand industries, it starts with a qualified teacher in the classroom to prepare them for the next steps,” Hall said. “This project is aimed at supporting CTE teachers to increase retention.”

Toward that end, PSU’s KCCTE will do the boots-on-the-ground work in conjunction with other Regents universities.