Campaign seeks to recruit top students to become teachers

New York Times News ServiceNovember 22, 2013 

School Desks

If you can’t do, teach. The three best things about teaching? June, July and August.

With so much teacher bashing, who in the world would want to teach?

Seeking to combat such sentiments, the Department of Education - in partnership with the Advertising Council, Microsoft, State Farm Insurance, Teach for America, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions and several other educational groups - is unveiling a public service campaign this week aimed at recruiting a new generation of classroom educators.

According to the Department of Education, as many as 1 million teachers could retire in the next four to six years. Hoping to attract young, high-achieving college graduates - particularly in science, math and engineering - the campaign, called Teach, uses video spots and radio announcements that portray teaching as creative, invigorating and meaningful, and as compelling a career as medicine, acting or engineering.

Under the slogan “Make More. Teach,” the video spots, which are being sent to television stations around the country, feature actors enacting scenes in classrooms and beyond. In one, a teacher stands in a swamp waist deep in waders as students look on from the shore, tapping iPad screens and chasing frogs. In another scene, a teacher uses papier-mch planets and surround-screen projection images of the solar system to enliven a science lesson.

Taylor Mali, a poet and a former teacher, provides the inspirational voice-over that evokes some military recruitment ads. “Teachers today are breaking down obstacles,” he says, “finding innovative ways to instill old lessons, proving that greatness can be found in everyday places.”

The retirement of baby boomers creates an “amazing chance to make a difference for decades to come,” said Arne Duncan, secretary of education, in a telephone interview.

In addition to recruiting more candidates with science and math backgrounds, Duncan said, the nation’s public schools need to attract more Hispanics and blacks, particularly men, to teaching.

Microsoft, along with State Farm, is financially supporting the campaign with an undisclosed amount. Some of the funding will be used to hire recruiters to visit college campuses and talk to juniors and seniors about a career in education.

“The challenge is to change the conversation around teaching so that it becomes the career that you want your child to go into,” said Kathy Payne, senior director of education leadership at State Farm, “rather than the career that you counsel children out of.”

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