Department of Education launches campaign to encourage students to become teachers

By Joby Richard, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE— The State Department of Education launched a marketing campaign on Wednesday to encourage high school and college students to think about becoming teachers.

This target of the new “Be a Teacher LA” campaign is “Generation Z,” including high school juniors and seniors and college freshmen and sophomores.

Kim Eckert, the 2017-18 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, characterized this group as “risk averse.” Eckert, an English teacher at Brusly High School in West Baton Rouge Parish said “Gen Z-ers” have seen technology take away many jobs, and they want to enter a profession in which they can make an impact.

Eckert said that society is guilty of diverting many “bright and talented stars” away from teaching and into other professions.

Elevating the prestige of teaching among families, circles of friends, communities, and even within the profession is essential, Eckert said. That also is the rationale behind the State Department’s recent partnership with a New Orleans-based marketing firm, Zehnder Communications, which designed the new campaign. 

The campaign comes amid concerns about whether teachers are adequately compensated. The average pay for Louisiana teachers is $49,244, and teachers have not seen a raise from the Legislature since 2007.  According to the Southern Regional Education Board, this is about $1,700 less than the southern average and almost $10,000 less than the national average. 

Holly Boffy, a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said that another problem is that teachers in poorer areas are often forced to teach subjects outside their specialities.

“In school systems with the highest concentrations of economically disadvantaged students,” she said, “nearly 16 percent of teachers are teaching outside of their certification area as compared with 10 percent statewide.”

To address this risk-averse generation, the campaign will highlight a robot “U-Learn 2000” in a series of video vignettes. The robot videos illustrate the incredibly simple campaign message, “Be Irreplaceable. Be a Teacher.”

Eckert said “Gen Z-ers” have a short attention span, averaging about eight seconds, so the campaign needs to “get in and get out” to leave an impression.

The videos will be highlighted on social media and in radio and TV spots. Promotions will feature Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards, a former teacher.

Supt. White added that Louisiana recruits about 5,000 teachers annually. He said the teacher shortage affects each local district and academic subject area differently. Some school districts, like Caddo Parish, which he said contains “the poorest zip code in the state of Louisiana,” already offer a $15,000 annual incentive to teach in that part of the parish.

For more information, visit BeATeacherLA.com.