New BOCES director focuses on helping combat teacher shortage
September 26, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As small rural school districts across Colorado struggle to recruit and retain talented teachers, veteran Colorado educator and administrator Tina Goar has come to Northwest Colorado and immersed herself in a program intended to allow teaching candidates who have college degrees, but are not certified to teach, to work toward that goal while leading a classroom.
Goar is the new executive director of the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services — BOCES — based in Steamboat Springs and serving seven school districts in Moffat, Routt, Jackson and Grand counties.
"This is a real human connection," she said. “We help them with classroom management, curriculum, lesson planning and meeting the needs of diverse students in the classroom."
The Denver Post reported in July that as the number of graduates with teaching degrees in Colorado has declined by almost 25 percent in the past five years, 3,000 new teachers are needed to fill openings in Colorado schools. And the average teacher salary at Colorado's rural schools is about $22,700 — about $14,000 less than the state average.
At Northwest Colorado BOCES, Goar and her staff are addressing that challenge through the state-approved "alternative licensure" program. It's for people who have at minimum a bachelor's degree and have secured a full-time teaching contract in one of the local BOCES school districts, which include East Grand, Hayden, Moffat, North Park, South Routt, Steamboat and West Grand.
"I have a team here that's eager to serve as innovation coaches to help with the training and support," Goar said.
There are currently 15 first-year teachers across Northwest Colorado BOCES this school year, ranging in age from 25 to about 45. Goar is in direct contact with all of them, monitoring their progress.
North Park School District in Walden has five alternative licensure candidates this year, but it's not just the smallest districts in the area that employ alternative licensure teachers. There are two working in the Steamboat Springs School District, three in Moffat County, one in Hayden and two at Mountain Village Montessori.
During their first year on the job, the new teachers must also complete online course work, attend workshops and be observed by master teachers. If they succeed, they acquire an "initial teacher's license" at the end of the school year.
The core mission of BOCES here is to provide special education based on the tenet that "all children can learn."
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But after a career spent teaching and serving as a small-district superintendent of schools in communities like Dolores, Buena Vista and the Gilpin County School District, Goar has a passion for the state's rural communities, where it can be hard to attract teachers.
Soroco Superintendent Rim Watson said his district, based in Oak Creek, struggles to attract more than one candidate for open teaching positions, meaning they often don't have an opportunity to choose the best candidate from among two or three applicants.
Goar knows that story well. For the five years preceding her arrival in Steamboat, she worked in a new role with the Colorado Department of Education, as its rural liaison supporting 52 school districts in Southern Colorado.
"It's highly rewarding for a person in my career to help to grow and sustain teachers,” she said.