UMaine competes against teacher shortage with ad airing during Olympics

The University of Maine unveiled a new promotional campaign this month highlighting its teacher preparation programs as pK–12 schools across the country struggle to find qualified teachers. The ad began airing during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which are expected to be one of the most-watched events of the year on television, cable and streaming.

According to the Maine Department of Education, the state faces teacher shortages in several areas, including general elementary, early childhood, special education, mathematics, middle-level science and adapted physical education. UMaine’s “Why Teach” video will air more than 120 times throughout coverage of the Olympic games, and is being promoted on university websites and social media channels.

SooZin Cha is one of about 70 seniors from UMaine currently completing intensive student teaching placements in 39 schools across Maine, from Scarborough to Houlton, in preparation for joining the teaching workforce. Student teaching is the final step before graduation and recommendation to the Maine Department of Education for initial teacher licensure.

“UMaine has really prepared me for the classroom and helped me make invaluable connections. I’m so excited to have a classroom of my own,” Cha says.

With nearly 800 UMaine undergraduate students, including more than 700 in majors that lead to teacher certification, the College of Education and Human Development has the state’s largest teacher preparation program. The college also offers several graduate programs and ongoing professional development to help teachers keep their certifications up-to-date or advance in their careers.

“Having been a teacher myself, it’s incredibly rewarding work,” says Penny Bishop, dean of the UMaine College of Education and Human Development. “We like to say a great teacher inspires others to achieve greatness. We’re proud to play a leadership role in strengthening pK–12 education, particularly in these uncertain times.”

The college has established several initiatives to address the teacher shortage in recent years. That includes an accelerated 4+1 master’s program in special education that allows students pursuing an undergraduate degree in special education at UMaine, the University of Maine at Augusta or the University of Maine at Machias to earn a bachelor’s degree (B.S.) and a master’s degree (M.Ed.) in five years.

The Master of Arts in Teaching degree is another accelerated program that leads to initial teacher certification, designed for those already holding an undergraduate degree in any field and interested in becoming a secondary school teacher. The college also has made it easier for aspiring teachers with a bachelor’s degree to take classes needed to achieve certification through the Maine DOE alternative pathways program.

“Vibrant and healthy communities, and the economy of a state, are built on a strong foundation of pK–12 education,” says Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias, and vice chancellor for research and innovation for the University of Maine System. “Teachers make a difference, and being an effective teacher who can reach a diverse audience requires specialized knowledge and skill. We are proud of our UMaine education graduates and know that they can serve as an inspiration to a new generation of classroom educators.”

In addition to the promotional video featured during the Olympics, UMaine is doing direct mail and electronic outreach, including social media campaigns, to prospective in-state and out-of-state students to boost awareness of the opportunities afforded to aspiring teachers at UMaine. The university also promotes the availability of loan forgiveness programs that can provide up to $17,500 in student debt relief for educators who teach in subject areas or communities affected by teacher shortages.

Besides Cha, the student teacher, the new video features two UMaine graduates — 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year Kelsey Stoyanova, who teaches English at Hampden’s Reeds Brook Middle School in RSU 22, and Class of 2020 graduate Jarod Webb, an English teacher at Orono High School in RSU 26 — talking about what they love about teaching and why it’s so important.

Contact: Casey Kelly,