They're in charge of passing knowledge on to our next generation, but the pipeline of teachers in Wisconsin's running dry. It's a growing concern in our state and our region.
Kelly Ferrell-Huber was 2012 teacher of the year at her former school.
"Teaching is definitely the career I think I was meant for," she said. Ferrell-Huber enjoyed teaching.
"Energy of the children, funny things they say, just doing something that you feel is really meaningful," Ferrell-Huber said.
But now, her job title is project manager for a private company. After 17 years, Ferrell-Huber said goodbye to the classroom. She said the job took everything she had- time, energy, even money. She said she spent up to $2,000 out of her own pocket each year on necessary supplies for her classroom.
After Act 10 was passed, Ferrell-Huber found herself emotionally burned-out and unsure of the future in a state she tells TODAY'S TMJ4 she felt no longer respected her. That's when Ferrell-Huber walked away. She's just one in a trend of fewer teachers in Wisconsin.
"The problem is that the pipeline behind them isn't filled," said Alan Shoho, the Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He said the school's enrollment is down from historical numbers. He tells us jobs that once had 120 candidates before Act 10 now fall closer to 20.
"We can talk about compensation, we can talk about working conditions, but I boil it down to this one word and it's respect," he said. He feels the lack of respect has caused detrimental changes in teacher education.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), from 2010 to 2015, enrollment in teacher licensing programs dropped almost 30 percent. And more than 20 percent of those in school to become teachers don't finish the program.
"It doesn't make me feel optimistic for the future of the country," Shoho said. And the teacher drain isn't just happening in Wisconsin. Some of our neighboring states have even more significant drops in enrollment.
"People need to be appreciated for what they do, they need to be recognized for what they deal with on a daily basis and they need to be supported," she said.
Shoho believes a new frontier in getting more teachers could be people looking to change careers. He said UWM has programs to make a second degree easier to attain. He said UWM is also working with Milwaukee Public Schools to create a streamline program for prospective teachers. In the program, students would decide in high school they want to teach and have the opportunity to take classes at the University level in high school that would count toward a future degree.