Department chair hopeful for future of education

By Felicia Roehm

SUSAN Dougherty became the new department chair of the College of Education in the 2022 fall semester and hopes to help fight the teacher shortage, a systemic problem facing today’s school districts. 

“There are societal forces around pay, around respect for teachers, around opportunities for advancement in teaching that makes the teaching profession at the moment perhaps less desirable than some other professions,” said Dougherty. 

She believes that teaching is an awarding and satisfying career that helps both the world’s and society’s futures. 

Dougherty hopes that with the teacher shortage, some of the issues in the education system will be forced to be solved, including compensation. She anticipates that with more teachers choosing to walk away, schools will give educators a salary increase. 

The college’s goals “are to make sure that [they] let students and prospective students and folks who are interested in a career that’s very meaningful and impactful to know that the career of education can be incredibly fulfilling, exciting and is a great place for someone who wants to play that role in society,” said Dougherty. 

However, she wants others to realize that teaching does not have to be a lifelong career and she wants to discuss the idea with more students that if they choose the path of education they don’t have to teach for their entire life. Those who leave education are often wanted in other professions. 

“Educators, if they decide to leave the classroom, are very highly sought after. They have developed amazing skills as educators and they’re wanted in business, wanted in the public sector in all kinds of roles and so I also think that what you learn as a college student preparing to be a teacher is also a great preparation for many things,” Dougherty said. 

She also seeks to develop students’ skills when discussing controversial topics involving book bans and what is authorized to be discussed in classrooms in different states. 

“One of the things I think we can do to help prepare students is to help them feel more comfortable discussing controversial issues and feeling comfortable knowing what their position is and supporting that position,” said Dougherty. 

She aspires to grow the number of faculty and students in the education department due to the teacher shortage. 

According to an article by the U.S. News titled “New Federal Data: Too Few Applicants in K-12 Schools,” over half of public schools said they are understaffed for the 2022-23 school year. Although some believe that this issue is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools were already understaffed before the pandemic began. 

Dougherty believes that Rider’s education program can create teachers who are disciplined and ready for the workforce once they graduate. 

Jacqueline Frazier, a former student-teacher, said she adored her experience. She loved creating fun-themed lesson plans and playing with the students, but the teacher shortage did impact the Lawrenceville Intermediate school where she was student-teaching as well. 

The school was having a challenging time finding substitutes when the teachers were out, forcing it to decide which class got a substitute for the day. If the class already had more than one teacher in the room then the school would give priority to a class that only had one teacher. 

Additionally, Frazier shared her own experience when one of her teachers was out for the day and, unfortunately, the school couldn’t get a substitute to replace her until halfway through the day.

While Frazier really wants all her students to do well in class and believes that all teachers feel the same way, she also expressed that teachers deserve more recognition for their hard work and efforts. 

She believes that more compensation should be given to educators but thinks that the more educational background a teacher has the more money they deserve. 

Frazier is excited to continue teaching and loved being able to be in a classroom. “This is the best internship I’ve done, [I] definitely got placed really well, and I’m enjoying it,” she said. 

Frazier will begin a full time teaching position at Lawrenceville Intermediate on Feb. 16 and said she is excited to return to the school where she began her teaching journey. 

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