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Catholic Life Education

St. Bonaventure adds four majors to help with state’s teacher shortage


ST. BONAVENTURE — In collaboration with the School of Education, St. Bonaventure University’s School of Arts and Sciences has added four new majors to help STEM the tide of New York’s evaporating pool of teachers.

New York’s State Education Department approved the four new majors last week.

Beginning this fall, St. Bonaventure will offer bachelor of science degrees in biology- adolescence education, chemistry- adolescence education, mathematics- adolescence education and physics-adolescence education.

Within the next five years, the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System projects that more than 90,000 of its 270,000 members could be eligible to retire. More than 50,000 teachers are already at least 55 years old, the age at which most teachers are fully vested in their pensions and begin to retire.

Conversely, fewer New York college students are choosing education as a career path. Between 2010 and 2015, enrollments in teacher education programs at New York state colleges dropped by 49 percent from 79,000 to 40,000.

The science, technology, engineering and math disciplines are projected to be the areas of greatest need as New York’s aging teacher population approaches retirement age.

For example, 10 percent of New York teachers teach math, but only 3 percent of recent teacher preparation graduates specialized in math. For science subjects, 9 percent of New York teachers teach science, but only 3 percent of teacher preparation graduates specialized in science.

“These programs streamline the pathway for students whose goal is to teach these subjects at the secondary level,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “The teacher shortage crisis in New York is not on the horizon; it’s already here.

“Our hope is that these new majors will drive more students to enter not only an extremely fertile job market, but pursue a profession that will always be one of the noblest and most vital our society offers,” he said.

These new programs will be housed in the School of Arts and Sciences and won’t replace the School of Education’s bachelor’s program in Adolescence Education, which requires students to take a concentration of courses in their chosen teaching subject.

“As science and mathematics degrees, these new programs provide options for students that not only include education careers, but also prepare students for potential employment or further education in many STEM fields if they choose to change career paths,” said Dr. David Hilmey, dean of Arts and Sciences. “Students will also receive more input and guidance from our science faculty – advising students on science courses, research, and other STEM outreach opportunities.”

The Adolescence Education department has created a new course — SPED 445: Instructional Strategies for Math and Science in Inclusive Secondary Education — to focus on STEM and fit with these new programs. All other courses in the programs will be a subset of the courses currently offered by the biology, chemistry, math and physics departments and the School of Education.

These four new majors will enable undergraduate students to meet the requirements for initial teacher certifications in New York state.