Mount Holyoke launches new program to address teacher shortage

SOUTH HADLEY — Mount Holyoke College is launching a free program for educators in Western Massachusetts designed to address a growing crisis in classrooms across the country — teacher burnout.

Working with schools and school districts across the region as well as the country, the college has heard time and time again from teachers and administrators that they are struggling with teacher shortages and teachers who are mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted . This struggle has only been exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The level of stress teachers are currently feeling as they navigate a multitude of changes speaks to the urgency with which we must address the social and emotional well-being of educators, their students and their communities,” said Jemelleh Coes, director. of Teacher Leadership for Mount Holyoke College’s Division of Professional and Higher Education (PaGE).

To meet this need, the college has created and later this month will launch Teaching for Our Moment, a program to support teacher well-being and student social-emotional learning – which is the process of developing of self-awareness, self-control and interpersonal skills – while addressing the educational challenges that cause teachers to flee the profession.

Although the pandemic has been reported to have a direct impact on students’ mental health, Coes said there is less awareness of the effects it is having on teachers.

“It is important that we ensure that educators are adequately prepared for students,” she said.

The program is funded through a $249,900 congressional funded Community Projects Grant to Mount Holyoke and guaranteed by U.S. Representative Richard Neal, D-Springfield.

Programming will begin with a free one-day conference on Saturday, October 29 aimed at helping K-12 educators identify strategies and best practices to meet the social, emotional and mental health needs of teachers and students. . The conference will take place on the campus of Mount Holyoke College from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to educators in Western Massachusetts. This will be followed by six months of programming as part of a professional learning and mentorship program.

“The teacher shortage doesn’t happen because people don’t want to teach,” said Tiffany Espinosa, executive director of the PaGE division. “Our programming is designed to help inspire, empower and support educators. We want to help retain these passionate and talented professionals in the field of education.

Sessions will be facilitated on topics such as social-emotional learning for science, technology, engineering and math learning; the landscape of social-emotional learning in Massachusetts and the country; and teacher well-being.

The conference will also provide special support for teachers and students from LGBTQ and Black, Indigenous and People of Color, or BIPOC, communities through affinity groups, which are groupings of people who share a common identity characteristic.

Keynote speakers will be Jed Dearybury, an expert on integrating arts, creativity and play into the classroom, and Afrika Afeni Mills, a leading thinker on creating life-centered learning environments. student, anti-bias, anti-racist and culturally appropriate.

Coes reiterated that all programming will create an atmosphere of teacher celebration.

“I don’t think teachers are praised and celebrated enough. The world around us has told us that teachers are disposable in many ways. This is reflected in the way we pay teachers and the way the profession is scrutinized, leaving the message that they should do it for the outcome, not the income, which I think is the wrong message” , said Coes. “We need to value them as knowledgeable professionals and humans and the reason our society thrives.”

In a statement, Neal said, “Mount Holyoke College is one of those gems that is doing innovative work to address and solve the issues that are happening in our country that plague students and teachers. When we support healthy teachers, we support healthy students. Mount Holyoke leads the way.

The six-month professional learning and mentoring program will include workshops to help teachers deal with the challenges of today’s teaching environment.

The Professional Learning Circles will run from November 30 through June and will include 90-minute interactive workshops with mentoring sessions that will give participants the opportunity to build a portfolio of resources and develop an implementation plan to integrate what they learn into professional practice.

“Teachers are constantly engaged in professional development. There are a lot of places people can learn, but there aren’t a lot of places people can be in the community and connect,” Espinosa said. “This help shows them that they are not alone, that there is not just light at the end of the tunnel, but tools that will actually help start this fire.”

To register for the conference or Professional Learning Circles, visit

Emily Thurlow can be contacted at [email protected]

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