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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 19, 2006

Influx of teachers to Wai'anae Coast expected

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

KAILUA This fall as many as 55 teachers from the prestigious educational group Teach For America likely will fill school vacancies on the Wai'anae Coast.

The Board of Education will pay $577,000 over the next four years to the organization that will provide college graduates who will come to Hawai'i and teach for two years.

"Teach For America provides only the best and the brightest, people who are motivated and very enthusiastic," said Patricia Hamamoto, schools superintendent.

Each year the state needs about 1,500 teachers and usually ends up shy by several hundred. Last school year, the Department of Education was short 400 teachers. By contracting with Teach For America, the state is hoping to fill that void with qualified teachers trained in the math, sciences and special education fields all positions that the state has had trouble filling with qualified teachers.

In return the state will help the would-be teachers obtain Hawai'i teaching licenses and pay their salaries for the two years. The teachers union and the Education Department agreed to pay Teach For America teachers with bachelor's degrees $37,507 the first year and an additional $1,200 the second year.

"The long-term goal is to get them to stay on," Hamamoto said.

The department hopes some of the two-year teachers will want to stay, or will be from Hawai'i originally and decide to continue teaching here.

Attracting and retaining qualified teachers is a priority with the department, said Greg Knudsen, DOE spokesman. The department has had difficulty luring Mainland teachers to the Islands, and the Wai'anae area is in desperate need of qualified, experienced teachers, Knudsen said.

Teach For America is supported by private fundraising and corporate donations. It has been operating for more than a decade to help reduce the teacher shortage nationally. Teach For America has placed teachers recent college graduates who agree to give two years before they continue other career plans in 22 regions.

The concept came to the Department of Education through the Hawai'i Business Roundtable, Hamamoto said.

Teach For America teachers have diverse ethnic backgrounds. They will receive a five-week summer course to prepare them to enter the classroom. Also, teachers will attend one orientation session to familiarize themselves with the local community and the Department of Education before reporting to their assigned schools.

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.