August 10, 2001

When Teaching Becomes Second Calling

Alberto Ramirez always wanted to become an architect but when he realized he would have to toil away for several years as an architect's apprentice before he would have a chance to practice architecture himself, he changed his plans.

"I needed to start my students loans," remembers Ramirez. "I became a teacher because it was a steady job. I stayed with teaching because I fell in love with it." That was ten years ago.

Ramirez, a native of Mexico City, teaches in a unique kinder through fifth grade program at Santa Monica Blvd. Elementary School in the Hollywood area. The program, Late Exit Bilingual Multiage Program, is set up so that children remain with the same teacher throughout these formative years, creating a sense of continuity and stability.

From his experience in this program, Ramirez sees an urgent need to attract more Latino males to the teaching profession. "Too many of these kids grow up without fathers. There needs to be a positive male role model in their lives," says Ramirez.

In order to attract good teachers, Ramirez says, "Teachers need to be rewarded and teaching needs to be given the status it deserves." In order to uplift the profession to the level society views medicine and law, Ramirez feels more educators need to be National Board Certified. "Teachers should be held to high standards just as doctors and lawyers and given the same respect and regard," he says.

Ramirez admits that he did not become a teacher because he felt a calling. It was his parents that initially turned him on to the idea. His father, who was a civil engineer in Mexico before coming to the United States, teaches in the Valley and his mother is a Teacher's Assistant in Pacific Palisades. Ramirez's career epiphany came once he was well installed in the classroom.

Factors that helped Ramirez to choose a teaching career were the incentives and benefits available to him.

Today, teacher recruitment programs and incentives are making the teaching profession more attractive than ever before. Beginning salaries now average $34,000. In addition, the Governor's Teacher Fellowship provides a one-time $20,000 stipend to graduate students earning a teaching credential. The Cal Grant T program covers the cost of tuition and fees for one academic year for recipients who have a bachelor's degree and are working towards a credential. Other incentives include educational loan assumption, personal income tax credits, home buying programs and $10,000 merit awards for obtaining National Board Certification.

Over the next decade the state will need to find 300,000 people to take on the challenging but rewarding job of teaching California's children. For more information on how to become a teacher, please call CalTeach at 1-888-CAL TEACH or visit www.calteach.com. CalTeach is a one-stop information, referral and recruitment center for individuals who may be interested in a teaching career.

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