Growing up in a poverty-stricken household, where her parents often weren’t able to help with homework assignments, there weren’t many people in Jennifer’s Emberton’s life who believed she could achieve her dream of becoming a teacher.
Now in her eighth year teaching, the Simpson County educator has joined a group of 10 “teacher ambassadors” working across the state to promote the profession in the face of a statewide teacher shortage.
Through the GoTeachKY campaign, Emberton wants to share her story and be the voice she never heard growing up.
“I love what I do, and I’d like to be able to share that with others,” said Emberton, a teacher at Franklin-Simpson Middle School. “It’s worth it.”
In August, the Kentucky Department of Education revealed Go Teach Kentucky – its answer to bringing more aspiring educators into the profession.
The campaign’s website at goteachky.com highlights the pathways into teaching, from sparking an interest in high school students to college students looking for student loan forgiveness and working professionals thinking about switching careers.
At the time of the campaign’s launch, then-Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis made a pitch to Kentuckians, asking them to consider teaching as a first, second or third career. He described a statewide teacher shortage as an escalating “crisis” and framed it within a national shortage.
“From 2008 to 2017, the U.S. saw a 27 percent decrease in completion of education preparation programs; in Kentucky that decrease was 36 percent,” Lewis said in a KDE news release at the time. “This trend is creating a crisis. As schools begin a new year, districts are still clamoring to fill positions.”
In its latest move to address this shortage, the state has partnered with a team of ambassadors for the profession, selected from a pool of applicants interested in supporting the statewide effort.
The ambassadors have three overall goals, including inspiring students in high school and college to consider teaching, coordinating with other educators to distill the rewards of a career in education and promoting Go Teach Kentucky programs like Educators Rising and the Teaching and Learning career pathway.
The Kentucky Department of Education said each ambassador has a story to tell about what brought them to the profession. Their stories will be featured in Go Teach Kentucky’s social media campaign, and the candidates themselves will act as public representatives for the effort. Each ambassador will serve through June.
Through the initiative, Emberton will launch career fairs, offer resources and information, help people negotiate their way into the profession and tell them “how much I love what I do.”
To combat the state’s teacher shortage, Emberton looks at tapping into its students as the primary solution. She sees hope around her. One of her students is interested in working with the deaf and hearing-impaired community.
It’s a passion she shares. When Emberton’s first son was finally diagnosed as deaf after multiple doctor visits, she was inspired to become a teacher to help advocate for him.
“Growing your own” teachers is the right solution, Emberton said.
“This is what we need right now,” she said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.