2024's Educators Rising National Day of Signing for Delaware was held at the Old State House Tuesday.

87 pledge to teach during Educators Rising signing day

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

2024's Educators Rising National Day of Signing for Delaware was held at the Old State House Tuesday.

2024’s Educators Rising National Day of Signing for Delaware was held at the Old State House Tuesday.

The impact and caring role of teachers during a troubling childhood has sparked a career path for high schooler Leilani Carrera, who solidified that path Tuesday during the Educators Rising National Day of Signing.  

The senior at Sussex Central High School in the Indian River School District signed her letter of intent at the Old State House in Dover to continue her education at the University of Delaware to pursue a degree in elementary education. 

“I have been super excited for this moment,” she said. “I have wanted to be an educator since I was in second grade, so being here and being able to sign that I’m going to college for education is probably my biggest event that’s going to happen, because I have been waiting for this day and becoming an educator for such a long time now.”

Ever since she was little, she said, she went through a lot of challenges and trauma at home.

“And there was always a teacher that cared enough,” she said, “and I want to be that teacher for somebody else.”

Carrera was joined by 87 students from 12 high schools throughout the state on signing day, which is similar to National Signing Day for college athletics, but is for seniors enrolled in the state’s Teacher Academy Programs of Study.

Other schools represented include:

  • Smyrna High School
  • Delmar High School
  • Polytech High School
  • Appoquinimink High School
  • Middletown High School
  • Caesar Rodney High School
  • Milford High School
  • Thomas McKean High School
  • Alexis I duPont High School
  • Cape Henlopen High School
  • Laurel High School

The 87 students this year marks about a 50% growth from 2023’s signing day, according to Alison May, public information officer for the Delaware Department of Education.

In addition to being one remedy to the ongoing national teacher shortage, the day is meant to send students into their next journey after high school and also enforce the great options for college and work in the state of Delaware, said Michael Hill-Shaner, education associate for the Delaware Department of Education and also the state director and advisor for Educators Rising. 

Educators Rising is a national organization that helps shape the future of the educator workforce.

It partners with states and has several programs.

For its high school program, students learn teaching techniques and get clinical experience as an accomplished teacher even before college, while being shaped as a student leader and advocate for education. 

Hill-Shaner pointed out that a majority of teachers work in a school within just a few miles of where they grew up, meaning there’s plenty of talent being developed to give back to Delaware and help improve a declining education system.

Lyle Jackson, also a senior from Sussex Central, signed his letter to commit to Delaware Technical Community College to pursue elementary education and special education. 

Similar to Carrera, Jackson’s affinity for former teachers helped grow his passion to educate others. 

“When I was younger, all I really had was my teacher,” he said, “so I want to be able to get back to students that need somebody.”

While signing day is exciting and a happy experience, Jackson said he’s super scared because he’ll soon leave his high school life.

“It’s really going into adulthood and I’m not really sure what the next steps of my life are gonna be,” he said. 

But, he said, he’s happy to play a part in bolstering the number of educators in the First State. 

“I feel like us coming together and having groups like this allows us to show others that it’s okay to be a teacher,” he said. “You can be a teacher. It’s a great thing, and it can inspire other people to become teachers as well.”

Students committed to more than 15 postsecondary institutions, including Delaware Technical Community College, Delaware State University, University of Delaware and Wilmington University.

Some of the many post-Secondary plans for students are:

  • Early childhood education
  • Elementary education
  • Secondary math education
  • Secondary history education
  • Science education
  • English education
  • Art education
  • Physical education
  • Special education
  • Bi-lingual, multilingual, and foreign languages education
  • Speech and language pathology
  • Psychology

Hill-Shaner said he is proud of the students and what they’ve accomplished in the past few years. Many of the Educator Rising students started in the program as freshmen or sophomores and continued to graduation.

There’s more than a thousand Delaware students involved in the program, Hill-Shaner said. 

Carrera said while she plans on starting her career in elementary schools, she sees herself transitioning to teaching high school.

She’s a big fan of the educator pathway programs like Educators Rising and said when she eventually moves to secondary education, she would love to start a career and technical student organization (CTSO) at her school or district. 

Her work in the program led her to becoming Educators Rising Delaware’s vice-president of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

The state’s Educators Rising students are part of Delaware Pathways Teacher Academy program.

Students involved in that take either a three or six course career and technical education (CTE) program that prepares students for careers in elementary and secondary education. 

Observation opportunities in a variety of age and discipline settings, as well as special needs and non-classroom settings, provide practical experiences while enriching the learning. 

Students participate in a long-term placement during their senior year which allows for in-depth experiences in a classroom setting.

“The program provides students with learning opportunities and supports our commitment to a diverse and culturally competent educator workforce,” May said, “that will help ensure the successful education of Delawareans for generations to come.”

Carrera said her involvement in Educators Rising, as a student and as a state officer, taught her how to use her voice and use that to help other people.

“I want other students to feel comfortable enough to go out and use their voice for the better,” she said. 

An impactful event, she said, was as a sophomore, she had a lot of trouble going on at home, she said, and was traveling back and forth from her grandparents house to school, which is two hours away.

“A lot of my Teacher Academy teachers helped me,” she said. “I was back and forth a lot.”

She wanted to compete in an art competition.

“I wanted to try this because it was something I was passionate about, I love art, and I really wanted to continue in that,” she said. “So my teacher knew that I was really passionate about art, and so she helped me out and allowed me to miss a couple classes so I could work on this book, and ended up winning first place.”

She said she wants to help grow Educators Rising and pathway programs like this – not too force people into teaching, she said, because it’s hard to know what job to pursue as a teenager – but to have the opportunity to explore the field of education.

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