Southwest Virginia Community University student Janet Deel signed a letter of intent to attend Bluefield University during a formal ceremony on Monday, May 7, 2019, but Deel did not sign a contract to play sports at the University. Instead, she was surrounded by educators and University officials to declare her intentions on studying teacher education at Bluefield University during Teacher Appreciation Week.
Planned and executed much like formal signing ceremonies for athletes, the event was designed not only to recognize Deel’s commitment to attend Bluefield University, but to also draw attention to the need to recruit outstanding students who aspire to be future teachers just like we recruit athletes.
“Currently, Virginia is facing a growing shortage of qualified teachers, so we need to be more intentional in our efforts to recruit quality teaching candidates,” said Dr. Thomas Brewster, dean of the School of Education and Social Sciences at Bluefield University, about the purpose of the signing ceremony. “The shortage has become increasingly severe in terms of the number of unfilled positions and the number of the subject areas of mathematics, special education, and career and technical education, but the shortages have also become severe in subjects such as foreign language, elementary education, and English,” added Brewster.
As part of Bluefield University’s Return to Roots (RTR) program, BU’s School of Education and Social Sciences encourages students from local high schools and community University to continue their education at Bluefield University. RTR will help prepare them for the classroom and will help them obtain employment in the local area. Dr. Brewster suggests that in order to solve this crisis, there will need to be work from the middle school level up to create a pathway for students to teach.
Director of Teacher Education, Shellie Brown stated, “To help the teacher shortage facing the state of Virginia, we want to help future teachers train local and stay local. We are excited about our new partnership with Southwest Virginia Community college which will allow students to more easily transfer directly into the teacher education program at Bluefield University to finish their degrees more quickly.”
Students who are a part of the Return to Roots program complete two years of coursework at Southwest Virginia Community University. At the same time, they take designated courses at Bluefield University. After graduating from SWCC, the student will complete the rest of their required classes at Bluefield University. All four years of the RTR Teaching Initiative will use defined pathways of instruction to ensure that all students are on track for graduation at the end of four years.
The RTR program’s mission is to train future educators locally in hopes of finding employment within their school district. This program not only allows students to be simultaneously enrolled at both colleges, but also allows them to attend events Bluefield University offers for free.
“Bluefield University is committed to preparing the next generation of teachers for Southwest Virginia and beyond. This partnership with SWCC will help create pathways for students in our region so they can learn locally and return to their home communities to teach,” said Bluefield University President, Dr. David Olive.
Bluefield University looks forward to having Deel here on campus this fall.