Signing events promote teaching profession
High schools across the country host events for students who are signing commitments to play college athletics or receiving scholarships for academics. Wouldn’t it make sense for educators to promote students entering their own profession?
That’s the question John Millea posed on Twitter and his blog last spring. Millea, the media director for the Minnesota State High School League, saw a story about a high school in central Iowa holding a “future teacher signing ceremony” and asked if any Minnesota district would like to hold a similar event.
“I thought it was just about the greatest idea I had ever heard,” he said. “My mom is a retired teacher and two of my three children are teachers, so education is very close to my heart.”
The response was enthusiastic to Millea’s tweet. This spring, numerous districts held signing events for students who are planning to major in education.
One of the events took place at Burnsville Senior High School and was organized by Millea’s daughter, Allison Millea.
“I took the idea and worked with P. David McDevitt and Hayley Ohama, our Future Teachers of America advisers, to organize and honor our future teachers,” Allison Millea said. “FTA had many of the students who participated come to the event and the rest heard about it through word of mouth.”
Burnsville had 14 students participate, signing commitment forms.
Allison Millea said the students felt special and important, and as a teacher, she wants them to make sure they know they are choosing a great profession and will be supported when they enter the field.
“Teaching has a lot of challenges, obviously, but I feel so confident in the future with these students leading the way,” said Allison Millea. “We all received messages from former board members, former students and community members about how wonderful it was for these students.
“Despite all of the challenges our district has endured, these students are still motivated and encouraged to be educators. Not only that, but they were all able to verbalize what they wanted to teach and really got at the passion required to be a good teacher. Honestly, it made me proud to be their teacher and work at Burnsville High School because this staff is beyond outstanding.”
John Millea’s tweet about the school in Iowa sparked the interest of Maple Lake teacher Casey Pack.
“I thought it was a great idea,” said Pack.
Fellow teacher Kim Fynboh also saw news about the Iowa event and as a student council advisor, she brought it up to the group. They decided to make it part of their Teacher Appreciation Week activities.
“As for finding out who was going into teaching, we just started asking the seniors and our guidance counselor too,” said Fynboh. “Being a small school, it is easy to get in contact with people. We sent out invites to the seniors and then word got out and the couple that we missed, we got an invite out to them.”
While this event was new, the Maple Lake Federation of Teachers local union has been giving out two $500 scholarships to students going into teaching for years. The scholarships are paid for with local union dues.
“There is an application that the seniors fill out and a small committee chooses two people from the applicants that exemplify future great teachers,” said Nicole Casebolt, the local president.
Adding the signing event to help promote the profession has been well-received.
“Usually we hear about it when an athlete signs with a college, but who has more of a lasting effect on future generations—educators,” said Fynboh. “Our student body thought it was unique too—as they were coming into school, the ceremony was being done in our commons area for people to witness.”
“I heard many students say it made them feel special and important. The staff loved it, and we hope to do it again next year,” said Pack.
Education Minnesota-Willmar also gives out scholarships to students going into education every year, and after seeing some of the other districts doing signing events, they organized one for their scholarship recipients.
“I saw about something similar taking place in another local,” said Tammy Knapper, Education Minnesota-Willmar local president. “I wanted to highlight these students and by doing so, try to encourage others to go into teaching.”
The local union has given out two $500 scholarships to students going into education for over a decade, but this year there were two other scholarship recipients to honor.
“We had a former teacher pass away and leave over $800,000 to our community scholarship fund, to be granted to students pursuing a degree in elementary education,” said Knapper.
The two recipients of the inaugural Dorothy Brown Scholars Fund each received $10,000 scholarships. The Scholars Fund is administered by the Willmar Civic Scholarship Association in partnership with the Willmar Area Community Foundation.
“Dorothy was a long-time teacher in Willmar,” Knapper said. “She loved teaching and kids.”
While this year’s signing event featured the four scholarship recipients, Knapper said they will expand it to include anyone looking to pursue education in future years.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “Next year we want to include all students who will be pursuing teaching degrees.”