A $50 million building proposed for Nevada State College’s School of Education would put a dent in Nevada’s chronic shortage of teachers, according to the school’s dean.
Dennis Potthoff, a dean at the Henderson college for four years, told State of Nevada that legislative approval of the new building would expand the state’s teacher pipeline.
“The School of Education, right now, is graduating about 80 to 100 speech pathologists and teachers per year. We aspire over the next several years to double that. Triple that eventually,” he said. “We’re really all in for building out that part of our campus.”
Potthoff also said many teachers hired outside the market end up leaving Nevada because of homesickness or to take care of elderly relatives. Those wouldn’t be issues with homegrown teachers, he said.
"If we grow more teachers locally, they’re more likely to stay here," he said, "They’re more likely to stay in the profession longer.”
Plus, he added, those teachers would have more support during their schooling and when they're first starting out in the profession.
Nevada is not the only state suffering from a teacher shortage, Potthoff said. “The decline in the number of people choosing teaching as a career nationwide is really troubling."
Overall, teacher education programs have declined 35 percent across the country over the last decade. That makes it tougher for Nevada to recruit teachers from other states because there's more competition from other states.
“Nevada needs to be very bold in its approach to teacher supply and school funding in general,” he said.
A new building is just one solution to a multi-dimensional challenge -- another solution, he added, is getting the state to encourage people to take up teaching.
To that end, Nevada State College started its Teacher Academy with six southern Nevada high schools, giving juniors and seniors a chance to explore the profession.
Potthoff said the planning phase of the new education building is finished and the college has raised the matching funds the Legislature required. If the school gets the needed funding from state lawmakers, he said construction would start within three months.
The entire building would take about 18 months to complete.
“I think it would be a great investment for our state," he added. "There just aren’t many things in our state more important than finding enough high-quality teachers and high-quality schools for our kids.”
Dennis Potthoff, dean, Nevada State College's School of Education