President's Blog: Where are All the Educators?

Incentivizing Today’s Students to Educate the Next Generation

Published: August 24, 2022

En español

Following three school years impacted by COVID-19 mitigation measures, hitting K-12 schools in high-poverty areas across the United States the hardest, education experts are now assessing how the pandemic impacted—and continues to impact—the state of K-12 education nationwide. Though much attention has been paid to the “learning loss” of students as a result of remote education, less focus has been on how the pandemic impacted the number of educators in our schools. Earlier this year, the National Center for Education Statistics within the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences determined that 44 percent of public schools reported having full- or part-time teacher vacancies.

Philly’s Education Crisis

Closer to home, the Philadelphia region is facing a startling teacher shortage. The Pennsylvania Department of Education determined that Philadelphia will need thousands of new teachers by 2025. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Thomas Alva Edison High School, the city’s fourth largest high school, had so many classrooms without teachers during Fall 2021 that “hundreds of students freely walk in the hallways all day.” 

Dr. Tony Watlington, Sr., the new superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia, has said that each morning he asks the question “How are the children?” Between the stresses of the pandemic and the severe decline in teachers, students are struggling. Addressing the crisis of available educators is a critical element in improving K-12 students’ well-being. 
School districts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education are exploring innovative solutions to address the problem in the short term, but we must look to the future to expand the pipeline of educators, especially for K-12 students, to meet the demands of the next decade and beyond.

At a press conference this summer, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty noted that teacher availability is “one of the most pressing challenges our schools are facing. Teaching is the profession that unlocks the workforce for all other professions, so we must find ways to encourage more individuals to answer the call and enter the classroom.”
Acting Secretary Hagarty put it perfectly. Teachers are the key to all development and growth – both personal and professional. Everyone has a story about a teacher who had a lasting impact on their life. 

Innovating to Create Educators

In Holy Family University’s School of Education, our faculty dedicate their careers to ensuring our programs are accessible to all students who have a desire to become one of those impactful educators. Holy Family has been a longtime producer of educators in Philadelphia and the surrounding region, and we continue to launch initiatives like our Early Childhood Education Pathway Program Pre K-4 Bachelor of Science concentration to help create certified educators with year-round classes in the evenings, both in-person and online. We have developed partnerships with local community colleges to provide students with flexible options that meet them where they are in their journeys toward the classroom and toward helping to solve the City’s critical teacher shortage. 

The University has also expanded certification and graduate programs to help educators at all levels continue to advance their skills for lifetime learning. We are proud of the variety of programs offered by the School of Education—but we recognize that more needs to be done.

Our strong connections to Northeast Philadelphia and Newtown mean that Holy Family educators often will be returning to their home communities where they are needed most, to enlighten and inspire the next generation. 

Real Impact

Holy Family alumni are on the front lines of leadership in education in Philadelphia – from leaders like Dr. Lisette Agoston Cintron M’02 D'20, a principal in the School District of Philadelphia, who was recently honored as one of Al Dia’s 2022 Women of Merit for her leadership, to Jayda Pugliese ’09 M’14, the principal of St. Mary Interparochial School, who was one of only 11 educators from the United States and the Netherlands to be named a 2022 Lowell Milken Center Fellow. Jayda herself is living proof of how education can change lives – she is the first person in her family to graduate from high school and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Holy Family University.

Holy Family alumni have been recognized as leaders inside the classroom as well. Seven of our alumni were honored with the School District of Philadelphia’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teachers (Marie Ames ’92, Frances E. Willard School; Lori Harkins M’05, Henry A. Brown School; Lauren MacDonald M’14, Henry H. Houston School; Jaquelyn Mengel M’10, George W. Nebinger School; Christopher Nevrincean ’14, M’19, Watson Comly Elementary School; Brian Rost M’19, Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Center; Timothy Tracy M’10, Philadelphia High School for Girls). 

Despite this cadre of impressive educators, the educator workforce requires a next big wave of knowledgeable experts who are dedicated to bettering the lives of our children.

To this end, we will continue to seek entrepreneurial ways to work with partners throughout the Philadelphia region as we strive to educate college students to become purposeful professionals to help stem the educator crisis.