Future Educators of America at RV seeks to create future generations of teachers

The club both responds to the teacher shortage and hopes to bring students back to RV…as teachers


Ruby Levy

Mrs. Sherman leads an FEA meeting in September

Maliha Tahia, Student Life Writer

The Future Educators of America chapter just started at the beginning of this year at RV. While the club is an interesting addition to the RV community, it also stems from need and the recent teacher shortage affecting school districts throughout the country.

While Mrs. Sherman of the English department is the one who started the club, Mr. Heiser of the history department joined her in advising it.

“Two other teachers and I had toyed around with this club a couple of years ago but did not really continue it.” Heiser said. “So when Sherman asked me to join her, I gladly did. A club such as this was here at RV before, known as ‘Future Teachers of America,’ but it had been discontinued. Now with the teacher shortage, I think we both know this is the main reason for restarting the club now.”

The teacher shortage to which Hesier refers is a national crisis going on in the country. New Jersey alone had almost 5,000 unfilled teaching positions at the beginning of this school year. Luckily, RV was able to fill all positions, hiring a number of teachers over the summer.

Some districts have fared better than others, but districts that are already understaffed, like rural and low-income districts, were in crisis-mode this summer. In a Washington Post article from August 2022, “Rural school districts in Texas are switching to four-day weeks this fall due to a lack of staff. Florida [asked] veterans with no teaching background to enter classrooms. Arizona is allowing college students to step in and instruct children.” 

The teacher shortage has been attributed to a number of factors, most notably increased demands put on teachers following the pandemic, and lower interest in the teaching profession as a whole.

“We are hoping that by informing this group of kids about the teaching field, they will at least consider choosing the teaching field a bit more,” said Heiser.

More specifically, the club seeks to bring students back to RV…as teachers.

“A number of teachers here at RV are actually RV alum,” said Mrs. Sherman. “We hope to get students interested in teaching and them bring them back into the community as teachers and leaders. In doing so, we want to make a teaching staff that better mirrors our student population. A ‘home-grown’ program like this will help us focus on what’s important to our community.”

So far, the cause behind the club has encouraged a number of people to show up and take an interest in teaching.

“Mrs. Sherman’s room is filled during our meetings. And there is good energy going on. Best of all, it’s not like a whole bunch of kids show up for one meeting and then no one shows up for the next,” Heiser said. “It’s a really cohesive group.”

The club’s start is a triumph for solving the teacher shortage, and it seeks to do many activities to enhance the group’s knowledge on the field.

“We want them to meet educators and get their perspective, and do some hands-on activities where the kids will get to teach themselves,” Heiser said. 

Mr. Hesier talks about his “why” in front of members of the FEA in September (Ruby Levy)

According to the Center for Future Educators at The College of New Jersey (of which the FEA is a branch), the FEA “endeavors to foster the recruitment and development of prospective future teachers by engaging its student members in innovative programming and experiential learning opportunities.” At its heart, the FEA exposes students to the world of teaching before they even set foot in a college classroom to help guide their interests into education. Students in FEA engage in a number of activities, including state-wide conferences, shadowing and observing teachers on the job and getting a peek into the many challenges and opportunities that being a teacher entails. One of the first things that FEA members at RV had to do, for example, was interview a teacher and reflect on their perspective. 

Heiser also says that even though he and Sherman have many ideas themselves, they want the club to be student-driven. 

“To be honest, a teacher needs to take initiative,” Heiser explained. “Meaning teachers all the time need to troubleshoot. They need to figure things out. So we want to see if students can do that.”

For Mr. Hesier, like many teachers, the club is personal.

“Teaching runs in my family; my grandmother and mother were both teachers. But along with that, I have coached baseball, taught at my Sunday school, and helped out with Boy Scouts.” Heiser said, “All of this has really sparked the inner teacher in me.”

Teacher shortage or not, Heiser wants students to realize the same thing he realized.

“I hope students’ involvement in this club will strike the same energy in them like it did for me to become a teacher,” he said. 

Senior Jessica Kerchner, the newly appointed President of the FEA at RV, also spoke to the importance of the group at this moment.

“I chose to join the club because throughout my high school career I have debated between many career paths, and teaching has been something I’ve always been interested in.” Kerchner said.

Many students in the FEA are between different career and major options, but the FEA “builds leaders as well as teachers,” said Mrs. Sherman.

“By joining the club, I’m starting to think that maybe I could combine my other passions, such as science and mathematics, with teaching,” said Kerchner. “This is one of the beauties of teaching.”