U.S. seeing more inexperienced teachers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

U.S. seeing more inexperienced teachers

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

The faces of teachers in classrooms across the nation have been looking younger and younger over the past few decades.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania shows that, more than ever before in recent history, there are more teachers in America's schools with just one year of experience.

Managing a classroom of active first graders can be hectic enough for an experienced teacher, as 18-year veteran Diane Pancratz knows.

"Can I see your handwriting book first before you read?" she asked a student Wednesday afternoon, as she strolled her classroom, surveying her kids' progress.

Pancratz said the first few years of teaching can be really difficult but also really formative.

"The years of experience will make it easier down the road, and the more organized and prepared they are, the easier it is to withstand a lot of the changes that come their way," she said, of new teachers.

Attrition may be to blame for the large number of first-year teachers flooding the profession. In the U Penn study, experts estimate that now 40 to 50 percent of teachers entering the profession leave within five years. That opens the floodgates for more new - and less experienced - teachers.

That is not necessarily a bad thing for a child's education, according to Paula Schmidt, Clarke University's chair of the education department.

"You have people coming right out of college, who have energy, who have passion -- not that experienced teachers don't -- but they're ready to go. They've been trained in the best practices," Schmidt said.

At an education course Wednesday afternoon at Clarke University, students were engaged in learning the latest methods in the field. This, plus hands-on student teaching in area schools, prepares these collegians for the real world.

Rahni Kay David is a senior elementary education major at Clarke.

"We're so comfortable in the classroom by the end," she said, of student teaching. "Right now I would go into student teaching right now, even before my senior year, very comfortable with it. I'm excited to get there."

Younger teachers also grew up surrounded by technology and social media.

"They jump into the technology aspect very well. They know how to use social media. They know how to catch their students' interest and keep them," Schmidt said. "They know about different learning styles and incorporating visual and auditory and kinesthetic learning."

Still, Pancratz said, the first year of teaching can be like the first year of marriage: the most difficult.

Like marriage, however, Pancratz said "It certainly is a great profession if they can withstand the bumps along the way."

She knows what keeps her going.

"It's all about the kids," she said, "and that's why I'm still here, is the kids."

Experts say a recent nationwide increase in support programs for new teachers are helping them stay in the profession.

In 1988 the most common teacher experience level was 15 years. Compare that to 2008, when the most common level of teacher experience was just one year.

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