I’ve recently agreed to lead Teachers of Tomorrow, the nation’s largest provider of teacher training, test prep and certification. With over three decades of experience in public education as a teacher, a principal and a superintendent, including being named Superintendent of the Year in 2012, I know the challenges facing our schools. And no challenge is greater than the severe shortage of qualified teachers available to serve our public schools.
Having a front row seat to this challenge as a former Houston-area superintendent – there is good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news: The need for well-qualified and well-trained teachers is especially acute in Texas. Last year, 29% of all new teachers in Texas were hired with emergency certification, meaning they had absolutely no training or preparation. Across the country, half of all schools in the U.S. reported having at least one vacancy to start the year in 2022. By 2025, it is expected there will be over 225,000 teacher vacancies nationwide. Traditional university programs have been producing fewer candidates to meet this increasing demand. If children are taught by a revolving door of substitutes and non-certified teachers, research shows they lose significant learning ground. We cannot allow this to continue to happen to our schools and our students.
Now for the good news: There is a solution to this problem today. Teachers of Tomorrow’s certification program has proven its ability to routinely produce award winning teachers in Texas and across the country. It also has the scale and reach to meet the challenge. As the largest alternative certification program in the country, this organization has the capacity to not only ensure that more classrooms open up this school year with a credentialed teacher in place but also ensure that these educators have the preparation and training needed to make a positive impact for their students.
In my time as superintendent at Montgomery ISD, our district hired a number of teachers out of the Teachers of Tomorrow program, and we were impressed by both the quality and passion those teachers brought to our classrooms. As I have gotten to know the company better over the years and became aware of the opportunity to lead it, I was immediately drawn to the vision, mission, and possibilities of Teachers of Tomorrow.
Like many companies during the pandemic, this organization experienced some challenges, but under new ownership, with individuals committed to its success, there is an unparalleled commitment to make a meaningful impact on education by providing an opportunity for more people to become teachers while also supporting them through their lifecycle as educators.
Taking on the role of CEO at Teachers of Tomorrow will be a continuation of my leadership journey, where I have always sought the opportunity to make a positive impact on public education, add value to the heroic work being done by teachers across the country, and improve the quality of education for all children.
During the COVID shut down, I left the private sector because I felt compelled to return to public education, and I became the superintendent of Montgomery ISD in Texas. During my time there, working with staff and community, we crafted a new strategic plan, passed a historic bond, and became a highly rated school district achieving an A rating on state accountability. We were recognized this spring by H-E-B as one of this year’s outstanding school districts in Texas and I was very humbled when the board also nominated me for Texas Superintendent of the Year.
I’m energized by the opportunity to channel my experiences from Montgomery ISD and the various leadership positions I’ve held over a 30-year career in education towards driving continuous improvement at Teachers of Tomorrow. There’s a lot that’s been said and written about Teachers of Tomorrow. Whatever views one may have about the company’s operations under prior ownership, let me be clear that I would not be joining Teachers of Tomorrow if I did not believe wholeheartedly in the commitment of the board and the management team to a culture of compliance and quality. In the past year, the company invested over $6M:
- in Improved screening and assessment of candidates in the admissions process.
- Additional layers to the curriculum and additional training for candidates.
- 3x increase in customer service resources dedicated to answering candidate questions, improving customer response time to 24 hours or less.
- Substantial enhancements in training for field supervisors and in engagement between field supervisors and teaching candidates.
And candidly, there is no organization in the country that has the resources or capacity to make a difference in the supply of quality teachers that Teachers of Tomorrow does.
Fixing the teacher shortage is personal for me. After being the first in my family to graduate from college, I decided to defer acceptance into law school and teach for a few years. I found my passion in education and never looked back. I loved teaching and the opportunity to help students learn, grow, and set their own future trajectories. I was soon asked to become an administrator, and subsequently, I have served as a principal of middle and high schools as well as superintendent of some of the largest districts in the country. I also spent time as a private sector leader heading a division of one of the largest K12 educational resource providers in the country. In all of these roles, I always saw myself as a servant leader trying to assist educators in their incredibly important work.
My life could have taken a different path. My father proudly served in the military, which meant I moved around a lot growing up. By the time I arrived in middle school, I faced gaps academically and I started to fall behind. I could have easily been on the same path as the over 1.2 million students who drop out of school every year. Instead, I was fortunate to have two teachers, Mr. Cloyd, my English teacher, and Ms. Leach, my math teacher, enter my life at a crucial time. They saw past the facade of an angry, confused young man and poured their energy, passion, and expertise into getting me back on track. The time and effort they invested in me allowed me to enter high school, not only caught up, but prepared and confident to take honors and AP courses. Whatever success I have had would not have been possible, but for two teachers intercepting and remaking my trajectory. I will be forever in their debt, and it motivates me every day to do more to make education better. Joining Teachers of Tomorrow will allow me to ensure more children across the country are provided well trained and caring teachers that can positively impact their lives, like I had, rather than classrooms filled with substitutes and or individuals with no training or readiness.
Nothing makes a greater difference in the education of all students than a quality teacher in every classroom. If we do not ensure a quality pool of candidates exists to add value to the current teaching force and also change the negative narrative around this critical profession, children will suffer and our nation will falter. I believe Teachers of Tomorrow can, and must, play a significant role in the effort of solving the teacher shortage that is the challenge of our time.