Student and teacher looking at a problem together

‘Get Back to Where You Once Belonged’: New Buffalo State Program Looks to Aid Teacher Shortage


Are you ready to get back to teaching? That’s the question a new initiative from the Buffalo State College School of Education is asking as teacher shortages hamper districts and create problems across the state.

The new program, called “Find Your Path Back to Teaching” (FYPBT), is aimed at potential teachers who either let their New York State teacher certification lapse or never received it in the first place. The initiative is also designed to alleviate teacher shortages and build enrollment, said Wendy Paterson, dean of the School of Education.

An open house reception will provide a detailed overview of the program on Wednesday, June 1, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. in the LoRusso Alumni and Visitor Center. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

“The State of New York right now is trying every which way to get teachers into classrooms,” Paterson said. “We believe this program will help with that.”

Inscription on window in Butler Library that shows a quote from Nelson Mandela that reads "Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world."

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”

— Nelson Mandela

The goal is to move qualified individuals into teaching roles as soon as possible, Paterson said. Just having a warm body in the classroom isn’t sufficient. 

“Teachers are starting to retire,” she said, referring to the teacher shortages locally and throughout the state. “COVID-19 convinced a lot of people it was time to go. That’s the cyclical nature of teaching. You’ll have a glut, and then those teachers will age out. We’re responding to the job market as quickly as we can.”

Potential teachers may have forgone the certification requirement for a variety of reasons, from moving out of state to starting a family. And the certification exams themselves may have been cost prohibitive, particularly for young wage-earners just starting out.

Some teachers moved to another state, Paterson said, where they didn’t need to earn a master’s degree within the first five years of teaching, as they do in New York.

The testing requirements have also recently changed, she said. There used to be four tests, including the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA). That test alone costs $300, which may have been a deterrent. Certification now requires just two tests.

“They’re not easy, but we prepare students thoroughly,” she said. 

The new initiative will provide individualized programming for derailed teachers to get back on track. FYPBT will assist those who are interested in resuming course by figuring out exactly what they need and creating a path to become a certified teacher in New York State. Support will also be provided through the Teacher Certification Office and the Career Development Center.

“Buffalo State is basically saying that we’ll find out what you need, and make sure you get it,” she said. “If they were Buffalo State students, it’s super easy, because they’d be admitted automatically.”

Substitute teachers are in great demand as well, Paterson said. Teacher candidates who enter the program may have an opportunity to work as short- or long-term substitutes while they go through the program. 

“Returning adults and career changers are an increasing population here, and that’s who the FYPBT program aims to attract,” she said. “These folks are eminently employable.”
Paterson said there’s a lot of excitement around FYPBT.

“We think this will be great for returning students, and for Buffalo State,” she said. “It’s a no-brainer: If you’re someone who wants to come back and get your certification, New York needs you.”

Photos by Buffalo State Creative Services.