“Our first class in 2007 had 10 people. This year we have 190,” said Katherine Wilcox, the executive director of EnCorps, a nonprofit that helps math, science, and engineering professionals become teachers by connecting them with volunteer jobs and teacher-training programs. Haynes was among those trained through EnCorps. “Working in a school, with teenagers, requires a whole different mindset than what they’re used to. It can be a big challenge unless they’re well trained.”
Many of these new teachers, including Haynes, have only intern credentials when they start their teaching careers. And because of an acute science- and math-teacher shortage, the figures are likely to grow.
California has seen an increase in recent years in teachers with provisional credentials: 10,136 for the 2015-16 school year, more than double the number issued just four years ago, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Of that total, 1,646 were given to new math, science, and engineering teachers in 2015-16, up from 993 in 2011-12, an EdSource analysis shows.
Traditionally, those who want to be teachers earn a bachelor’s degree and then enroll in an intern teacher-credential program (which includes 12 to 18 months of classwork and student-teaching with an experienced teacher) before earning a preliminary credential. New teachers generally earn a clear credential within five years.
Alternative routes, which are designed for people who are switching careers or are otherwise unable to take a year off work to go through a credential program, allow people to take a few short, intensive classes before becoming a salaried classroom teacher. These people work under an intern credential.
These teachers continue to take teacher-preparation classes on weekends and over the summer, and they usually work closely with mentor teachers at their school sites. Those programs typically take between 18 months and two years to complete.
Over the next decade, California will need 33,000 new math and science teachers, according to California State University’s Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative Annual Report. And although the California State University system has increased its output of math and science teachers from 750 in 2002-03 to more than 1,500 in 2014-15, it’s still not enough.
The shortage reflects a national trend, according to the Center for Public Education, prompting universities and the federal government to offer student loan forgiveness and reductions for students who pursue teaching math, science, or special education in high-needs schools.
While recruits from the science, math, and technology industries account for a tiny share of the state’s pool of math and science teachers, they are making a difference.
Haynes had no problem adjusting to classrooms filled with teenagers. In fact, inspiring young people—especially those who are African American and Latino—is the main reason she decided to become a teacher, she said. She grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida, in a neighborhood similar to where she works now, and neither of her parents attended college. If it hadn’t been for a few teachers “always telling my mom, have her take this test! Take that test!” Haynes said she never would have become a scientist.