Unlike many new college graduates, Erika So is laser-focused on her future.
“It’s a little crazy. You come out of college and the big question is like, ‘What are you going to do?’,” she says.
But Erika knows exactly what she’s going to do. She is going to be a teacher. It’s a career choice Erika is 100 percent confident in, even though others may question it.
“I’ll say, ‘Oh I just graduated from Cal and I want to become a teacher.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, you went to UC Berkeley and you want to become a teacher?’,” she says. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to do.’”
Erika was so taken by teaching she joined the campaign for Teach.org, a new recruitment effort on college campuses nationwide. Teach.org hopes to create a pipeline of top-tier students to fill the void created by an estimated one million teachers who will be eligible for retirement in the next decade.
Regional director Nina Scheinman says, “We’re really looking for high-achieving students that are successful academically that may be looking to go into other careers and have not actually thought about teaching as a career.”
In the Bay Area, Teach.org is targeting UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Francisco State and San Jose State. The organization has also peppered the region with nearly half a million dollars in donated media, secured by the Ad Council, with messages like, “Make More. Teach.”
“I think it’s a great idea. We need good teachers,” says UC Berkeley associate professor Jesse Rothstein. “Over the last 50 or 60 years, we’ve seen a decline in the highest ability students who go into teaching.”
Rothstein is a former chief economist at the US Department of Labor whose research focuses on education and the labor market.
“We’ve come to realize how important good teaching is and how important it is to recruit good people into the profession,” says Rothstein. “And I think that raises the stakes on stopping the slide in our ability to recruit good teachers.”
As for the new UC grad Erika So, she’s focused on getting her teaching credential and spreading the word about her chosen profession.
“We need to get teachers in there that are excited about teaching so that kids can be excited about learning,” she says.
Teach.org is a joint project of the Department of Education, Microsoft and State Farm. The two big national teachers unions and Teach for America are also involved in the campaign.