Over the last two years, we have heard a clear message from our network of alumni, partner schools, and educators: There is an urgent and pressing need to find, develop, and retain strong educators across the career spectrum. At UVEI, we want to help respond to this challenge – and we hope that some of you will help as well (see the end of this article for an invitation).


Every year, UVEI’s board and faculty choose an area of focus for our collective work and learning based on what we are hearing from our partner schools and educators are the most pressing and challenging problems of practice they are facing. We then use our faculty’s expertise, insight, and learning, as well as the wisdom of our network of educators and schools, to see if we can shed light on that shared challenge for the benefit of all of us in the UVEI network.


This year, based on feedback from the community, our focus is on the stepping stones available to educators as they move into the array of roles in schools; and the strategies needed for recruiting, developing, retaining and sustaining educators across the career spectrum. This is a widespread, national, long term problem that has been exacerbated by recent shortages that have plagued many fields, and it affects paraprofessional roles, substitute teachers, new teachers, teacher leader roles, and school leadership roles alike. While we want to respond to the short-term problem, we also want to keep our eye on the long term trends and solutions. 


Given this focus, UVEI faculty members, with the support of UVEI leadership, have set the following goals:

  • Through the Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning, convene and lead a network of educators from across our partner schools to understand and take action on challenges for schools in developing and retaining educators. 
  • Plan and facilitate conversations with local school and district leaders about current promising approaches to educator recruitment, development, and retention. These convenings may take the form of focus groups, article discussions, or critical friends groups and will combine online and in person opportunities.
  • Contribute to contemporary research by drafting a Knowledge Brief, which will be peer reviewed by members of our network and will incorporate educational scholarship along with examples from local schools, on the conditions that have been found to retain and develop educators across the career spectrum.
  • Provide guidance to our partner schools and districts, informed by what we learn, on the practices that help create these conditions.
  • Revise our curriculum across programs based on what we learn to better prepare educators to lead continuous improvement.

So, with these goals in mind, we offer this invitation: 

  • Are you in a school that is doing promising things to attract, develop, sustain and retain educators? 
  • Do you have insights into this challenge? 
  • Do you have specific questions you would like answers to?


If you answered “yes” to ANY of those questions, we would love to hear from you and invite you to participate with us. Please contact cward@uvei.edu or ptompkins@uvei.edu. Stay tuned to our website and social media, as well, for updates and opportunities to participate!


January 2023: Announcing Focus Group Conversations

June 2023: What We Learned from Our Focus Group Discussions

June 2023:  How One Rural School is Confronting Today’s Workforce Challenges


Page Tompkins, EdD, is the President of UVEI. Chris Ward, PhD, is UVEI’s Academic Dean and Coordinator of Graduate Studies. Page and Chris are also faculty members in UVEI’s Teaching, Educational Leadership, and Literacy programs.