The Importance of Student Teacher Stipends in PA

Story Stream
recent articles
Becoming a teacher in Pennsylvania is a difficult and financially insecure process that can be prove challenging for aspiring educators.
Each morning, I get myself ready, and look at my class, teaching, and work schedules. I have to make sure my lesson plans and schoolwork are ready. I also must prepare myself for a long day traveling from school to student teaching to work and find time to put hours into my remote job, just to make ends meet while trying to earn the right to teach in Pennsylvania.
I'm a student teacher at Millersville University, but student teachers across the Commonwealth share my story. It's because, until this year, student teaching has been unpaid. At Millersville, in the first semester, student teachers attend two classes a day, two days a week, and then teach in a classroom for the remaining three days.
The next semester, student teachers become full-time teachers, responsible for lesson planning, parent communication, student assessment, faculty meetings, and building relationships with the school staff.
The only difference between student teachers and full-time teachers? We are not getting paid.
I am currently navigating this phase of my teaching journey. I spend two days a week attending classes and the other three days teaching – all without any financial compensation.
To make ends meet, I must work multiple jobs. I must cover my gas, food, school bills, and other living costs. This financial strain significantly impacts my mental health and overall well-being. The constant need to balance school, teaching, and work leaves me stretched thin and mentally and physically exhausted.
Balancing the demands of student teaching while being unpaid is not just challenging – it's unsustainable.
Unpaid student teaching was a quirk of our system that existed before the cost of higher education and the skyrocketing prices of everyday items.
Thankfully, last year, legislators decided to pass a paid student-teacher stipend and funded it with $10 million.
I applied for a student-teacher stipend this spring and hope to receive it in the fall. Unfortunately, there were 4,000 applicants for only about 700 stipends. That means I could be among thousands of student teachers who must continue unpaid student teaching while struggling to make ends meet.
The legislature needs to fully fund the student teacher stipend at $75 million this year to start rebuilding our teacher pipeline.
Fully funding student-teacher stipends is not just a nice gesture but a necessity. Without a crushing financial burden, we can focus more on our teaching responsibilities and less on how to pay our bills. We could put our full energy into classrooms, which would benefit our students and set us all on a path to success. Student teachers could devote more time to lesson planning, engaging with students, and developing innovative teaching methods.
We could also attend to our professional development without worrying about financial survival. Providing student-teacher stipends could bring more young people into the profession when Pennsylvania faces a crushing teacher shortage.
Last year, the legislature made the right decision when they created the student-teacher stipend program. Now, they must finish the job and fully fund the program so all student teachers can receive a stipend and focus on what truly matters – teaching and inspiring the next generation.

Show comments Hide Comments