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Education officials using 9-week teacher residency program to help bring more diverse educators into classrooms

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - We are only weeks away from school doors opening for a new academic year, and already education officials say they are having a difficult time filling critical staff positions. Eyewitness News got an inside look at an innovative new program that hopes to bolster the pipeline of diverse classroom professionals.

Inside Ms. Prime's science class, students are being taught by a group of young diverse educators.

"I think it feels great to be the representation that Black students and students of color have lacked for so long, but it's also immense pressure to make sure you're the mentor or the person they've been missing for such a long time." teacher fellow Jasmine Prime said.

It's all part of a nine-week residency program with Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia where high school seniors and college students can get hands-on experience.

"The program is for nine weeks, the teacher fellows are with us for nine weeks. They learn everything from what you need to do to run a classroom from classroom management, lesson planning, DEI everything that it takes to be a teacher," Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia Michelle Palmer said.

At Germantown Friends School there are 18 fellows in the program, six are people of color and it's all in hopes of bringing more diverse educators into the classroom.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Acting secretary Eric Hagarty, says "Less than 7% of teachers in Pennsylvania are people of color."

The Pennsylvania Department of Education says there's a teacher shortage across the state.

"Over the last decade, we've seen a dramatic decrease in people entering the field of education," Hagarty said. "Ten years ago, around 20,000 new educators entered the classrooms each year. But last year there were only about 6,000 that did so."

Full-time teachers are needed in both urban and suburban school districts like Lower Merion in Montgomery County.

"We had about 60 teaching positions that we for the most part have been able to fill. It's been challenging in a couple of areas. Those are subjects like advanced sciences, computer technology, chemistry," Amy Buckman with Lower Merion School District said.

Aside from teachers, districts tell CBS3 there is a greater need for bus drivers, substitute teachers, nutritional staff and building engineers.

"We have more than a dozen open bus driver positions," Buckman said.

By the end of the first week of August, about four fellows in the program will be ready to start making lesson plans for their own classrooms.

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