The major goal of Future Educators Day at Fort Hays State University is to increase interest for students in the teaching profession and to inspire them by having them interact with some of the most dynamic teachers in the state. High school students attending the 2021 event last month at FHSU got to hear from – and interact with – the best of the best.
Tabatha Rosproy, who spoke at the inaugural Future Educators Day in 2020 as part of the Kansas Teachers of the Year team, returned this year as National Teacher of the Year (NTOY). That designation by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is the most prestigious teacher recognition program in the country.
Dr. Jill Arensdorf, FHSU provost, also addressed those in attendance.
“Teaching is the lifeblood of our communities,” Arensdorf said. “It’s a calling to help shape and define our youth as well as our community.”
There are currently nearly 1,400 teaching vacancies listed on the Kansas Education Employment Board. Arensdorf pointed out that teaching is a stable career – and much more.
FHSU graduates more than 200 teacher education majors each academic year. Most of those students complete student teaching in their final semester before graduating. This semester, FHSU has 112 student teachers with 124 scheduled for the fall of 2021. Overall, Fort Hays State averages more than 1,000 students in its Teacher Education Program.
Dr. Chris Jochum, chair of FHSU’s Department of Teacher Education, emphasized the significance of hosting Future Educators Day on the campus that was founded as a Teacher’s College in 1902.
“It shows our continued commitment to serving Kansas communities through recruiting and training excellent teachers,” Jochum said. “This is critically important for potential first-generation college students who may have limited experience on a college campus. Simply getting them to campus and having them interact with other students, faculty, and staff sends the message that they’re capable of being successful here.”
While it is sometimes difficult to attract quality teachers to rural areas, Dr. Paul Adams, dean of FHSU’s College of Education, insists that Fort Hays State is committed to helping fill that gap. He was pleased that Rosproy – who is nationally recognized and has been featured in Reader’s Digest – was able to speak at the Future Educators Day for a second year.
“Our College of Education is committed to preparing teachers as part of our mission to serve Kansas,” Adams said. “Tabatha is a leader and innovator as a teacher. Her energy and enthusiasm conveyed what it means to be a teacher – for students considering their choice of careers. I believe students walked away from this event realizing that teaching is more than just a career, that it is a way of life and making a difference in the world.”
Part of Rosproy’s responsibilities as NTOY include attending speaking engagements across the country to inspire others to join the teaching profession and to bring national public attention to the importance of excellence in teaching.
Rosproy’s reign as NTOY began on July 1, 2020, and runs for one year. Because of the pandemic this past year, 95 percent of her presentations have been virtual, with only a few in-person events. She definitely wanted FHSU’s Future Educators Day on the in-person list. After all, she is a Fort Hays State student, working on her Master of Science in Education degree.
Rosproy, who has been working as a preschool teacher for special education students in Winfield for the past seven years, has the distinction of being the first NTOY who works in early childhood education.
After giving a lively and uplifting presentation to the students in the Memorial Union this year, students were able to visit with representatives from the FHSU Admissions office. Then, current FHSU students in Teacher Education led smaller break-out sessions for the participants. The sessions focused on three areas that Rosproy told the students that “great teachers do” – connecting to your purpose and doing what you are passionate about, building relationships, and engaging your students.
The event enabled the students’ teachers, counselors, and principals to accompany them and interact more as colleagues, thus underscoring the importance and significance of the profession.
Rosproy’s passion was evident as she talked about her teaching career. She told the students how she “shined in school” because adults recognized her strengths and believed in her.
“I am who and what I am because of what other people poured into me,” she said. “You can change the life of a child as a teacher.”