Happy New Year. Do you have what it takes to serve as a teacher? The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education may be able to help with grants, scholarships, and partnerships with local university preparation programs. This year’s January SLO Journal Article is a reflection on the past, a call to service, and potential assistance to become a teacher.

As I was completing my undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego, my career path suddenly came to a screeching and confusing halt. In the midst of completing applications for graduate school to become a clinical psychologist, I realized that this was not the path for me. As part of the graduate school application process I had been volunteering at a group home for children in San Diego for a year; however, I could not see myself serving the community as a psychologist.

During the next few weeks, I spoke with family and friends about my uncertainty. My father, an engineer, encouraged me to follow the emerging boom in high-tech, grandma wanted me to become a priest and the rest of my family or friends said to pursue something I enjoyed. My final phone call was to a former mathematics teacher from my high school whom I had maintained contact with throughout college.

Brother Jerome Gorg, a Marianist, who dedicated his life to teaching mathematics, had encouraged me to work in the math lab at my high school and tutor other students initially for credit then as a volunteer. He often quoted Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Brother Jerry involved me in mathematics and teaching. He also had a way of responding to a question with another question designed to make one think. During our phone conversation, he reminded me of my service in the math lab during high school and asked me why I continued to volunteer after my required elective time was completed. I responded that I enjoyed assisting others and grew in my passion for learning as a tutor. Brother Jerry simply said, “I think you have an answer to your question.”

The following week I made an appointment with the Teacher Education Program chair and enrolled in the credential program. The first ten years of my teaching career were in service to English language learners and students living in poverty. The past twenty have been as an administrator dedicated to promoting high-quality programs that meet the needs of today’s students. Gandhi said that “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Teaching is not only a noble profession but a place to promote social justice for a democratic society.

It is the responsibility of all those concerned about our country to promote highly qualified and dedicated educators in each and every school. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education has written and received several grants offering scholarships, program subsidy, and tuition reimbursements for individuals pursuing a career in teaching. Research indicates that four factors have a direct impact on positive student success. These factors include primary caregivers, education level and involvement, family socioeconomic status, the quality of the classroom teacher, and the quality of the school principal. Our tax-payer funded system has the most control over who we train and employ as our classroom teachers and school principals. We cannot underestimate the value of a highly qualified teacher or school administrator. It is imperative that we act now to encourage intelligent young people to consider education as a profession. We must insist that those responsible for educator preparation expand their capacity and recruit highly qualified educators to enter this noble profession.

California continues to face teacher and principal shortages across the state because of the economic downturn, retiring baby-boomers, and a drastic reduction in avenues to become an educator. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education has scholarship funding for individuals interested in obtaining a general education, special education, and bilingual credential. My office is currently partnering with Monterey, Kern, Kings, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties to offer any credentialed teacher employed in any school within the participating counties, tuition scholarship funds to gain a Bilingual Authorization Permit. Additionally, my office continues to partner with Brandman University in offering undergraduate education courses either online or in the evening to accommodate individuals working during the day.

For additional information, please contact your local school district or the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education (805-543-7732). It is an honor to serve as your County Superintendent of Schools.