The Dean's Column
How the Tables Have Turned
As was reported on the front page of the New York Times, “Low on Teachers, New York Scours Austria,” the problem of the severe shortage of mathematics and science teachers in New York City embarked on an innovative solution: recruiting highly qualified mathematics and science teachers from Austria. The idea emerged during a casual dinner conversation I had with the then Austrian Education Minister, Elisabeth Gehrer, who mused at the large number of Austrian students preparing to be mathematics and science teachers when her country had very few positions to offer them. For the next 10 years, there has been a steady stream of teachers who have come to New York through the sponsorship of the Austrian government and the Austrian-American Educational Cooperation Association and has been enlarged to include teachers from the neighboring countries such as Czech Republic, Slovakia Germany, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, and others.
For the most part, these teachers have stayed for at least two years and many have stayed as long as nine years and may continue their professional career in New York City. Although the initial motivation on the part of the Austrian Minister was not only to provide employment for qualified university graduates, but that these visiting teachers would return to her country and teach mathematics and science in the English language. Learning English is clearly one of the most important subjects in the Austrian schools.
In a recent visit to Austria, I met with a director of personnel for the Vienna school system who, as a great surprise to me, lamented that the Vienna schools were now facing a shortage of mathematics and science teachers. He felt that the relationship built up during the past ten years might now be flipped in the other direction, where we would find American mathematics and science teachers who would be willing to teach their subject (in the English language) in Vienna schools. Naturally, they would gladly include teachers who could teach English in their schools as well. This comes at a time when the New York City Department of Education is indicating that the previous shortages of mathematics and science teachers might now be abating.
It would be interesting to see if our professionals would be willing to take a leave from their current positions or those about to retire interested and interested in a second career, or those who have not yet embarked on an American teaching career, would be interested in teaching their subject in Austria. Those interested in such an opportunity should contact me by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and send along a cover letter and curriculum vita. How the tables have turned……….interesting!#
Dr. Alfred Posamentier is Dean of the School of Education at City College of NY, author of over 40 Mathematics books including: Math Wonders to Inspire Teachers and Students (ASCD, 2003) and The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers (Prometheus, 2007), and member of the NYS Mathematics Standards Committee.