SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson and the CEO of Envision Utah Robert Grow issued a plea Wednesday to Utah educators currently not teaching to return to the profession to help address the state's teacher shortage.
A collaboration with Envision Utah hopes to re-engage former teachers who may be interested in returning to the classroom. They are asked to complete a questionnaire at returntoteaching.org to gauge their interest in rejoining the teaching ranks and to find out what it would take to get them to return to Utah public schools.
"Whether you're a former teacher who left for any reason, if you once thought about being a teacher or you're a current teacher, our students need and deserve you, each student needs and deserves you. We all need you. To those of you who left the profession, I invite you to return," said Dickson.
According to Dickson, there are about 30,000 Utahns who have teaching credentials who are currently not in the classroom.
"The survey will help us determine the reason behind it (not currently teaching) and if there is a desire to come back to the classroom and if they have desires, how we might help mitigate those issues," Dickson said.
Dickson said Utah's Return to Licensure pathway allows teachers to come back into the teaching system without taking additional courses.
Herbert likewise extended an invitation to teachers to return to the classroom, describing teaching as "a noble profession."
His fourth-grade teacher taught him a love of reading "and it changed my life. I love to read and I have a large library because of a fourth-grade teacher," he said.
While there are shortages of other professionals in Utah's growing economy, "the one that's got us most concerned is the shortage of teachers," he said.
"We need to recruit and retain the best and the brightest of society to be those that impact the rising generations and the outcomes of tomorrow. That's teachers," Herbert said.
Forty-two percent of teachers who enter the profession leave within five years, Herbert said.
"More than half leave in eight years. There may be a variety of reasons for that with the culture of Utah. Nevertheless, we need to address what we can do," he said.
Grow said the 52,000 Utahns who responded to surveys that were part of Envision Utah's "Your Utah, Your Future" effort identified education as their No. 1 priority.
"It was their top priority and they have ambitious dreams. They want our students to lead the nation. They want the education of our students to be the drivers of a great economy and for our students to become the beneficiaries of that economy. They believe that when every child has a chance for a great education all of our communities benefit," he said.
That takes parents being their children's first teacher, attending preschool, providing the means to help students from every background to succeed and encouraging more students to pursue postsecondary education, he said.
"Finally and most importantly, it means we need to support our teachers, those who are in the classrooms, those within the walls of those schools, who have the biggest impact on all of our children," Grow said.
The returntoteaching.org questionnaire will also connect inactive educators to teaching positions that match their skills or interests.
This story will be updated.