UC Riverside partnering with Coachella Valley Unified School District to tackle teacher shortage

Pristine Villarreal

With more schools suffering from a shortage of educators, working as a teacher isn’t the draw it used to be.

Students like Liliana Marcelo, however, are trying to change that and change their communities.

“I want to go back to CVUSD (Coachella Valley Unified School District),” she said. “That’s where I grew up. So, I want to become a teacher there and serve the students in my community.”

Marcelo is one of six students enrolled in the University of California, Riverside’s new teacher education program known as STEP — or Supporting Teacher Education through Partnerships.

Students in the STEP program study at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert campus and collaborate with the Coachella Valley Unified School District. The goal: educate future teachers who are connected to the areas where they’ll be working.

“What we are trying to do is to ensure that we create critical thinkers who are part of the community and who will stay in the community,” said Frances Valdovinos, Ed.D., UCR’s assistant dean and director of teacher education.

From large class sizes to low pay, Valdovinos and other educational leaders say there are several reasons for this teacher shortage.

“It’s not enough to pay the bills. It’s not enough to pay off student debt. And it’s not enough to be able to afford to live in the community that you teach in,” said Leslie Littman, vice president of the California Teachers Association.

Littman says during the 2021-2022 school year, the average salary for beginning teachers in California was between $47,000 and $55,000 depending on districts.

“I’m hoping we’ll turn things around,” she said. “I think we need to make the investment in our future and that future is always our students.”

At the UCR Palm Desert campus, Marcelo and her STEP co-eds are preparing to graduate with their teaching credentials in June and start working next school year in the communities that they call home.

“It’s a very full circle moment to be able to go back to the district where I grew up and become a teacher there,” she said.

This story was written and reported by Kai Beech. 

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