In 2022, I think it is abundantly clear that schooling, at all levels, is never returning to “normal.” The ongoing pandemic, alongside renewed calls for racial justice, has not just forced a major shift in how instruction is delivered. It has also shone a bright light on the degree to which persistent educational inequities disadvantage poor students and students of color and brought increased attention to how institutional racism undergirds and perpetuates these inequities.
The challenges educators currently face cannot be overstated. They include not only the problem of how to effectively provide instruction in blended environments, but also how to authentically assess learning; address issues of access to technology and connectivity; provide for the social and emotional needs of learners in increasingly stressful and traumatic times; expand implementation of culturally responsive, anti-bias, and anti-racist curriculum and teaching strategies; and address significant learning loss. We are additionally grappling with the recent wave of teacher retirements and resignations that will create even greater challenges related to attracting new teachers to the field for years to come.
We have experienced a seismic shift in education, a major disruption to the status quo. At the same time, we are keenly aware of the opportunity to innovate, learn lessons, and collaborate to improve the preparation of teachers. High-quality educator development and support has never been more consequential.
Margaret Wheatley, who has written extensively on leadership in times of turmoil, says, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about” (Turning to One Another). The current challenges we face have served to remind us of our core community values. As a UTeach community, we have a renewed purpose, we are hopeful, we are energized, and we are rolling up our sleeves.
What was most valuable about this strategic planning effort was the process of intentionally engaging key stakeholders to reassess the context for our work, reaffirm our core organizational values, and further refine our organizational identity and mission. Through the stakeholder engagement process, we identified the opportunities, challenges, and big questions in front of us and expanded and clarified the organizational goals and objectives that will guide our work going forward.
As we enter the 25th anniversary year of UTeach, we have much to reflect on and much to celebrate. I am more aware than ever of the educational challenges we face, but also more determined to work to find solutions. I have renewed confidence in the value that the national UTeach effort brings to improving STEM teaching and learning in the U.S.
Director, UTeach Institute