Careers in teaching are always evolving. Continual developments in technology, learning styles, and professional development are enhancing teachers’ careers and helping them meet the changing needs of their students.
And the teaching profession continues to grow, especially in specialized areas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of early childhood education teachers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.* That projected growth is due to the ongoing focus on the importance of early childhood education. To be successful, it’s important for educators to graduate from universities with leading education programs.
“Receiving a quality education from a credible institution can make a huge difference in increased student achievement,” says Dr. Heather Welzant, dean of the School of Education at Capella University, an accredited online university with more than 39,000 students.
Fortunately, today there are a variety of learning environments for teachers looking to enhance their skills and further their education. For example, Capella offers its degrees online and focuses on adult learners looking to maximize their learning in ways that fit their busy lives. The Capella EdD program is a practitioner-focused doctorate program designed to help teachers become leaders in education.
Twelve years ago, Dr. Welzant earned her doctorate in education from Capella. “That degree launched me into academic leadership roles that I never could have imagined,” she says. “It opened doors that I didn’t even know were possible.”
“A decade ago, the focus was on educating everyone the same way — a one-size-fits-all approach. But now it’s about equity and individualization, educating students via the different ways that work best for them. This new personalized, yet standards-based, approach meets students where they are and helps them learn material efficiently and effectively,” says Stephanie S. Johnson, EdD, deputy superintendent of the division of school and district effectiveness for the Georgia Department of Education, and a Capella University alum. “We are seeing education revolutionized.”
She continues, “Educators have expanded instructional practices to engage and increase student learning with innovative tools and technologies rather than utilizing traditional instructional practices. For example, instead of telling students to all read the same text, teachers are finding multiple texts or interactive lessons on the same topic that cater to the different interests and needs of students.”
Becoming a great teacher doesn’t just happen. It takes a foundation of excellent education, but it also requires support and encouragement from veteran teachers who have experienced what life as a teacher is really like. For those interested in a career in teaching, or who want to take their teaching career to the next level, it is important to find a mentor, to connect with more experienced educators who can help define the path forward.
In her 24-year career, Dr. Johnson has been a teacher, a counselor, principal, and now, deputy superintendent. She’s also a mother whose daughter is now teaching, too. She has a vested interest in helping all teachers succeed.
“One of my greatest passions has been around preparing teachers, specifically determining how to meet them where they are, filling in any gaps, and providing resources, support, and professional development,” says Dr. Johnson.
She recently spoke at a legislative conference where one of the topics was teacher burnout. “Teachers often feel overwhelmed,” she says. “We want to remove barriers that lead to burnout and help teachers experience the rewards of a productive career in education. That happens through building a community of support.”
Learning never stops, and teachers in particular need to be continually investing in their professional development. Dr. Welzant pinpoints the following four trends in professional development for educators: group learning for teachers; building relationships and a healthy culture; cultivating teachers as leaders; and the use of multi-delivery methods to help educators learn when, and how, it’s convenient — including working on projects as a team or taking courses online.
She also says technology has transformed education and encourages all teachers to develop their digital skills. Still, even with tech’s influence, she says human interaction between students and teachers is essential. Soft skills such as communication, leadership, collaboration, and problem solving are essential for teachers.
Dr. Welzant concludes by advising teachers to be self-motivated about learning. “You can’t have a successful career in education without being committed to educating yourself,” she says. “You’ve got to be practicing lifelong learning.”
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Preschool Teachers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ (visited May 20, 2019). Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes, and Capella does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, or other career growth.
Kristen Castillo, [email protected]