Facilitator Patrick McMillan illustrated how to use Google Apps for Education core services during an all-day Google Academy held at Niagara University on Aug. 16.

With the state of New York facing a major teacher shortage in the years ahead, cutting-edge preparation of education majors – and continued professional development of current educators – takes on added importance.

It was that impetus, in part, that led to today’s Google Academy at Niagara University. Hosted by NU’s College of Education in collaboration with the Orleans-Niagara Teacher Center, more than 100 teachers from local school districts participated in the all-day conference, which featured 16 different sessions on how to incorporate Google tools in the classroom.

Dr. Chandra Foote, dean of Niagara University’s College of Education, also attended the conference with numerous faculty members.

“This type of professional development allows teachers to bring the most current and innovative technologies into their classrooms,” noted Dr. Foote. “It also gives our faculty an opportunity to learn these technologies so that they can equip our pre-service teachers with the ability to integrate technology into the classrooms as they enter the teaching profession.”

New York will need 6 percent more teachers by 2022, or about 1,700 teachers a year, according to data from the state Department of Labor. Western New York will need 4 percent more teachers by 2022, or an additional 90 teachers a year.

Statistics from Niagara University’s Office of Career Services confirm the increased demand for teachers. A 2014 analysis showed that 100 percent of NU’s recent education graduates reported that they were employed or enrolled in graduate school within one year of receiving their diplomas.

Niagara University offers nine undergraduate programs in education (along with minors in literacy and developmental disabilities), in addition to 12 graduate programs and a doctoral track in educational leadership and policy. Several programs have been added since 2010 to address regional and national areas of emphasis, such as TESOLclinical mental health counseling, and early childhood and special education.

From a national perspective, the U.S. Department of Education notes that 1.6 million teachers will be needed to replace those who are on the verge of retirement. At the same time, enrollment in teacher education programs has declined 40 percent nationally since 2009.

Career opportunities certainly exist for those interested in a profession that maintains the capacity to impact lives. Conferences like the one at Niagara on Tuesday allow colleges and universities to pair education majors with teachers who bring innovation into the classroom to make learning exciting, engaging and fun.

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure that we can provide quality teachers in every classroom in New York state,” said New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “We need to really elevate the teaching profession and articulate the importance of teachers and what they do every day to support our students.”

During a recent visit to Western New York, Elia articulated her concern for the state’s ability to fill upcoming teaching vacancies. “Financial situations are improving,” Elia said. “More and more people are really considering their retirement time. These things are all factors that over the next three to five years are going to contribute to the situation we have in New York of trying to find teachers certified to go in our classrooms.”

For more information on Niagara University’s teacher education programs, please call 716.286.8560 or visit www.niagara.edu/education.

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