How is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting enrollment in teaching programs?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This year has not only completely upended education for students, but for teachers as well.

Nationally, a survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education found a significant impact on enrollment in Fall 2020 education prep programs.

This comes as Channel 9 has continued to report on an ongoing teacher shortage.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte senior Paige Blackwelder said you often get questions when you say you are going to be a teacher but despite that, she said she is sure of her decision.

“When you say, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a teacher,’ it’s always like, ‘Are you sure,’” Blackwelder said. “That’s always the first question I get or ‘You’re not going to make a lot of money.’”

Through the pandemic, it has actually made her want to pursue teaching even more even though she has watched the struggles of other teachers.

“I’ve also watched all these kids be so glad to be back in the school building and it’s motivated me more to go in,” Blackwelder said.

Amidst the pandemic, she said some peers have reconsidered.

“I think amongst my peers, there’s been a lot of us that are like, ‘OK, do I really want to do this,’” Blackwelder said.

At UNC-Charlotte’s Cato College of Education, Dr. Brad Smith told Channel 9 since Fall 2019, they have only seen a very slight decline in undergraduate enrollment, which is a general trend they have seen for years.

They have also seen a sharp increase in those applying for a graduate certificate in teaching.

“We are seeing less of our traditional undergraduate candidates and much more adult students who already earned a bachelor’s degree and are either changing careers or leaving another undergraduate program,” Smith said.

Those graduates are filling needed roles in the classroom and though the Cato College of Education has not necessarily seen the same pandemic impact the nation has seen, the ongoing teacher shortage is something Smith worries about.

“I meet with HR reps from districts regularly and when we hear about their struggles to fill the classroom and yes, that’s scary,” Smith said.