The level of devastation COVID-19 has brought to the nation's education system may not be truly known for years to come, but one direct negative impact it's having is on student teachers.

Four leading education groups in the state have spoken out about the need to build up the teacher preparation pipeline to prepare the next generation of teachers to join the workforce in the coming years. With remote learning and the Pandemic upon us, it's still important for those new and studying teachers to get the proper experience.

According to major education groups, one of the biggest side-effects of COVID-19 in schools is the lack of opportunities for student teachers to be paired up with veteran educators in some areas this fall and how that trend would affect springtime student teacher placements.

Placement of student teachers is necessary for their college degree and licensing requirements. Not only do student teachers need to learn how to teach an actual class, but the experience they gain tending to students social and emotional needs is essential. That is not happening in a remote setting. Leading education groups are hearing that some districts are not taking or reluctant to take on apprentice teachers during these unprecedented times.

The State Education Department not only encourages student teaching for their knowledge, but their presence can be an important support system for teachers in districts struggling with staff shortages and remote learning challenges. The leading teacher unions say, "We're encouraging educators to consider taking on these critical mentorship roles and help address the teacher shortage."

Officials say enrollment in New York's teacher education programs have dropped approximately 50% in the last 10 years. On the other side of the coin, officials believe the State Teacher Retirement System projects one third of the active teachers in the state could retire in the next 5 years. SUNY projects that New York will need 180,000 teachers in the next decade. The need for teachers will not go away and with COVID-19 ravaging the state education system, the need to support educators continues.

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