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V.P. Al Gore: Nation Must Recruit Two Million Quality Teachers

At a press conference hosted by Teachers College and Columbia University, U.S. Vice President Al Gore said that public schools nationwide are facing a workforce crisis.

School administrators will have to hire two million new teachers over the next ten years because of the rise in the number of teachers who are retiring and in the number of school-age children.

Gore told a standing-room only crowd at Columbia University's Low Library October 9 that accommodating enrollment growth in the midst of retirements is going to be a daunting task. The number of new teachers needed is equal to about half of the current teaching workforce in the United States.

This is the time to encourage the nation's best and brightest to go into the classroom, Gore said to the audience of Columbia and TC students, faculty, staff and trustees. "You have nothing if you don't have quality teachers," Gore said.

Columbia President George Rupp commended the Clinton Administration's focus on education in his remarks before the Vice President's address. Like Gore, he said good teachers are essential. "This network of free public schools is what made this nation."

The Vice President said: "Education must be the highest priority for all Americans simply because it is at the heart of everything we must do to prepare America for the 21st century. Giving our children and others a world class education is the single best investment we can make in our common future."

Dean Karen Zumwalt thanked the Vice President for visiting both institutions "to give much needed attention to recruiting and preparing quality teachers for our nation's schools."

"Good teachers are needed to break the cycle of poverty facing too many children," Dean Zumwalt continued. "These youngsters--and the social and economic conditions in which they live--present challenges to even the best teachers."

The Vice President wanted the honor of being introduced to a Teachers College student. Dean Zumwalt selected Angel Alexander, who has a B.A. in biology and Afro-American Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

Alexander had been on a pre-med track at the University of Pennsylvania, but she made time to volunteer in Philadelphia public schools. In spring 1997, she worked in a high school where the students were using outdated textbooks and the teachers were using outmoded techniques. That's when the future doctor decided that she should become a teacher.

Her commitment to her new field has only deepened since she started at TC this fall, she said. "Here at Teachers College my educational philosophy is being broadened. I can be likened to a gatekeeper," she said. "Teaching a person is like being a gatekeeper and giving a person the key to opportunities."

Dean Zumwalt said: "Angel Alexander is typical of the highly motivated, well-educated people entering teaching. Our public schools need many more Angels."

Vice President Gore wholeheartedly agreed.

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