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State Education leader works to improve image for teachers

WBFO file photo by Eileen Buckley

The national trends indicate teacher shortages in some parts of the United States.  The teaching profession has faced difficult changes with high-stakes testing, salary disputes and poor performing schools. But WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley says the state's education commissioner is encouraging those in higher education to help future teachers.  

"We have as a nation, been extremely negative over the last 20 years, but actually the last 10 years. We have created the image that all teachers are bad,"  said state State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia as she spoke to some of the leaders of local colleges and universities.  

Elia encouraged them to help break the stigma against teaching. She noted that many times when you speak to a successful person they will point to a teacher that had an influence on their future.

Credit WBFO file photo by Eileen Buckley
New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is working to improve the image for teachers. She stands in the Sweet Home Central School District where she taught for many years.

"We as a nation have to move the agenda on support for teachers. The only way that students are successful, whether it is successful today of the standards we have, whether it is going to be successful in the next 10 years is because they have great teachers in front of them. It is the only thing that consistently effects children and so we I think we have a job to make sure people start thinking differently about educators, and I'm working hard in New York State to focus on that," said Elia.

Elia said programs to support future teachers in New York are substantial, including scholarships. She's also working with the SUNY Chancellor to expand opportunities in training a diverse group of teachers. 

Elia speaks from experience as a former teacher. She  taught for more than 19 years, including a stint in the Sweet Home District in Amherst.   "I feel like I've got the opportunity now to really focus on the important things for teachers, which is to understand -- yes -- that there are standards for them, and we need to have high quality teachers in front of our students," Elia said. 

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