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Guest Column / Reg Mcshane

Teachers' experience is inestimable

Amity Loses More than Teachers with Retirement

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By REG McSHANE

For The Itemizer-Observer

Over a three-year period that ends in June of 2007, Amity School District will have lost through retirement more than 300 years of combined teaching experience.

Of this total, 256 years has been spent in direct service to the Amity School District's students and the community.

Amazingly, this translates into an individual average of over 23 years of teaching and/or administrative service to our District.

I want to share some of the concerns and challenges that Amity School District faces in replacing these highly qualified and valued staff members. This is a timely issue -- no doubt other school districts are facing, or soon will face, similar challenges. We have been told that many of Oregon's experienced teachers will reach retirement age in the next few years.

Teacher retirement by itself isn't all negative. Significant advantages are associated with bringing new staff into an organization. New teachers come with a wealth of new ideas, energy, and enthusiasm for the classroom.

The challenge for us is in finding creative ways for our experienced teachers to share their craft knowledge with the newcomers. Craft knowledge is knowledge that has been learned over time. It can be school-specific or deal with general life lessons.

So much of what we teach is accomplished through the art of telling a story. The story is usually the result of a personal experience we had, or one that was shared with us by a parent or someone we really respect. These real-life experiences are essential to providing young people with meaningful instruction to which they can relate.

A teacher of many years brings a wealth of craft knowledge to the table. In addition, a teacher who has taught in the same district for many years brings a valuable source of personal experience specific to the students and their community.

Amity School District, like every other district in the state, wants to provide students with the best education possible. We have spent considerable time this past year addressing our professional staff development needs. We've established a need to map our curriculum, increase communication between schools, and improve transitions for our students between elementary and middle school, and middle school and high school.

With an increase in teacher retirements inevitable, I see the need to expand teacher mentoring programs in the state. We need a mechanism in place that can tap into the resources available from these retired teachers so that we can continue to build on their knowledge and experiences.

I am hoping Amity School District will be able to keep our retired teachers connected within the community and our schools. It is because of their dedication, care and concern for kids that we have the quality schools we enjoy today.

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Reg McShane is superintendent of the Amity School District.

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