Neighbor Island teachers will have easier access to professional development classes under a new University of Hawaii outreach program.
Preparation and advancement classes for K-12 teachers will be offered on a consistent basis in Maui County, and on Kauai and the Big Island starting next fall, similar to the way they are offered on Oahu, said Randy Hitz, dean of the College of Education at UH-Manoa.
"We have served quite a few students, but we havent been able to promise the programs. Its been frustrating for us and for the students," Hitz said. "Thats going to be the big difference. Now we can promise classes."
Public school teachers must take professional development classes or pursue masters degrees to move up the pay scale. Previously, Neighbor Island teachers could only take classes when enough people on their islands signed up.
UH hopes that about 125 students will enroll in the program when it starts so they can go through the classes together. "If you have dependability, then you can develop a pipeline of students," Hitz said. "This is for public school teachers and anyone who wants to get into a teacher education program."
The classes will use a combination of computers, interactive video and face-to-face classroom instruction. Also, money has been budgeted so students in West Hawaii will have travel support when they need to attend a class that is offered on Maui, Hitz said.
The outreach program was designed in response to a statewide teacher shortage and will be phased in over the next four years. In 2000, the Legislature asked UH and the state Department of Education to come up with a plan to offer teacher training on the Neighbor Islands, where the shortage of teachers is even greater than on Oahu.
UH President Kenneth Mortimer said the university has reallocated money to pay for the outreach program. "We think its terribly important to the future of this state, and we think its something we ought to be held accountable for," he said. "Our philosophy has been its better to train people where they are going to live. If you recruit teachers from the Mainland to teach on Maui, they only stay on Maui for two or three years."
Greg Knudsen, spokesman for the Department of Education, said its always been more difficult to recruit and retain teachers for off-Oahu jobs. "Access to educational training isnt available equally to everyone," Knudsen said.
Classes will be offered at Maui, Hawaii and Kauai community colleges.