Groups take to the airwaves to attract teachers

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A pair of television ads designed to persuade more people to pick teaching as a career were unveiled Tuesday in three states set to lose half of their teachers in the next decade.

The 30-second spots are meant to remind viewers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota about the lifelong impact teachers can have on their students.

The “Make Your Mark” campaign was commissioned by the Network for Excellence in Teaching, a partnership between the charitable Bush Foundation and 14 higher education institutions in the Upper Midwest.

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“We know from our research that if they’re asked, they will go into education,” said Peter Hutchinson, president of the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation. “So today, we’re asking.”

The ads show students in various classroom settings with the chalkboard signature of a teacher as a backdrop. A narrator says one teacher can change hundreds of lives and asks, “Are you ready to make your mark? Are you ready to be a teacher?”

The television and Internet campaign is part of the foundation’s 10-year, $40 million investment in teacher preparation programs. The goal is to improve how new teachers are recruited, trained, placed and supported.

Virginia Clark Johnson, dean of human development and education at North Dakota State University, said enrollment in teacher education has increased at the college in the last few years. Even so, she said educators can no longer sit back and wait for the students to come to them.

“Until this point, we’ve never really gone out and tried to recruit the best and brightest,” she said. “We assumed that they just decided to be teachers.”

The campaign will include localized ads meant to highlight the rewards of teaching and show that the profession is “not all about low pay and hard working conditions,” said Bill Martin, head of NDSU’s school of education.

“We’ve recognized that one of things we need to work on is the image of teaching as a profession,” Martin said.

In addition to the TV ads, an interactive website should promote higher education and offer a quick assessment for students to find out “whether teaching is right for them and they’re right for teaching,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said the impending retirements of baby boomer teachers provides a unique opportunity to motivate the next generation of teachers.

“It all starts with recruiting,” he said.