SHELDON — Local schools are looking for unconventional ways to combat teacher shortages, including the usage of emergency teaching licenses.
At Sheldon Elementary School, teachers Ethan Dezotelle and Courtney Norris came from other careers to teach and are doing so with temporary licenses.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, teacher shortages have been reported across the United States and in Vermont. The National Center for Education Statistics says nearly half of the country’s public schools have at least one vacant teaching position.
Franklin County is specifically experiencing shortages in science and math teachers.
To combat these shortages, Vermont has three types of temporary teaching licenses – two for teaching in public schools, and one for career technical centers – which superintendents must approve candidates to use.
The emergency license used by Dezotelle and Norris is only given to those who have a four-year degree or higher. It lasts exactly one year, and cannot be renewed for another year.
The second public school type, a provisional license, lasts for two years. Users must hold a four-year degree or higher and meet certain other criteria, including a plan to qualify for a permanent license within the two years.
To work in education permanently, Dezotelle and Norris are both taking a class through the Upper Valley Educators Institute in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Both want to be fully-licensed teachers, and the program is the quickest way in Vermont.
Dezotelle is currently a third-grade teacher at Sheldon, and Norris is a first-grade teacher. Both plan on continuing to teach their respective grades after obtaining full licenses.
“It’s a super intense program, but by the end of the year I will have my teaching license,” Dezotelle said.
Two Tuesdays a month, the duo travels to Lebanon for in-person classes with several other would-be teachers including students from Colby-Sawyer College. The other two Tuesdays, they have a Zoom class for three or four hours in the afternoon.
Dezotelle said their occasional absences from Sheldon haven’t put a major strain on the administration or the classroom. They’re able to work half days for one Zoom class and attend the other class in the late afternoon with no problems.
“It is a challenge all around and it is another hurdle to jump through, but we’ve been fortunate,” Dezotelle said. “We’ve been able to work it so we’re consistently covered by substitute teachers.”
Dezotelle worked for Messenger and as the editor of the County Courier before transitioning into substance abuse prevention. Since then, he’s worked consistently with students as a behavior interventionist or as a paraeducator.
“This summer, I was working at the summer camp that [Sheldon Elementary] does, and the idea came up that I might do this [teaching],” Dezotelle said. “After a few days of thought, I decided to give it a shot.”
Norris has a similar history. With a degree in social criminal justice, she worked at Northwestern Counseling and Support Services as a behavior interventionist for ten years before deciding on a career change.
“I have two young kids that both go to Sheldon, and I decided I wanted to be closer to them and have a similar schedule,” Norris said.
She, like Dezotelle, said the scheduling can be a bit difficult with a lot of late nights, but the Sheldon administration and her family have been very supportive.
Norris and Dezotelle both said the program at Upper Valley Educators Institute is excellent, with the schedule allowing them to use the skills they learn as students the next day in their own classrooms as teachers.
“I spent a lot of years in classrooms as a behavior interventionist watching teachers teach and learning curriculum through that,” Dezotelle said. “But now to be at UVEI and really learning the educational theory behind what I’ve seen teachers doing is just really eye-opening and really helps me deepen my understanding of what I’m doing as a teacher.”
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