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AFT-NH Testimony in Opposition to HB 1298 Relative to the Licensing of Parttime Teachers

AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1298  Relative to the Licensing of Parttime Teachers

From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH

Thank you, Chair Ward and Members of the House Education Committee. Thank you for reading my testimony.

My name is Debrah Howes. I am president of the American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire.

I am here to speak on behalf of our 3700 members across the state, as well as the students, families, and communities we serve. Our members include preK through 12 public school educators and support staff, university faculty as well as town employees. I am here today to testify in opposition to HB 1298 Relative to the Licensing of Part-time Teachers.

We all want to do what is best for our students in our local neighborhood public schools. We want them to have challenging academics in fully staffed schools, but we also want them to have engaging lessons, carefully designed learning experiences and content communicated in a way that meets their learning needs. Being a content area expert is not the only requirement to be successful as a teacher. Hiring content area experts who are not certified educators to teach students, even if limited to parttime, would put students’ learning needs behind the appearance of filling positions.  

Teaching is more than just knowing a body of academic content. It is a very specific skill set that encompasses the ability to communicate with both students and parents, knowledge of child and adolescent development, knowledge of exceptional learners at both ends of the bell curve, knowledge of different teaching methods, how assess student learning, and how to adjust instruction based on those results. Teachers must learn how to get students engaged in a lesson, maintain their attention to a task and motivate them to complete their work. Teachers must learn classroom management, so that most of a student’s time is actually spent on learning. They must learn behavior management and conflict resolution so issues between students don’t take the whole classroom off task. And they must learn all the schools’ protocols and procedures to make sure they are keeping students safe, watching for signs a student might be considering self-harm, and watching for signs students might be experiencing bullying in school or even online. This list is long, but by no means everything!

The list outlined above describes many of the things that are separate and distinct from the academic content area expertise a teacher needs to master to be able to do their job effectively. It is in the best interest of the students in front of them that all their teachers have these skills, and requiring teachers to be certified is the best way to do that. A certified teacher who has gone through a teacher preparation program in college, and done practicums and student teaching, comes into the job with much of this knowledge and some practical tools already in their tool kit. Each year on the job teachers add to their knowledge and toolkit through professional learning and professional development, which is required to maintain certification. A teacher in an alternative certification program is working on a plan to fill in any gaps in their knowledge and experience base and has support from their district while they acquire these important student facing skills. Throwing content area experts in without these skills they need to teach is not fair to the content area experts, nor is it fair to the students.

Simply put, not everyone who knows their content is cut out to be a teacher. When I was in high school, several decades ago, we had a substitute teacher for math. Our regular teacher was out for a few weeks, and they hired a retired engineer to fill in. He knew his math. He was, literally, a rocket scientist! What he didn’t know was how to break down the complex math concepts he knew so well into smaller steps and explain them to high school sophomores. It was the start of a new unit, so we had no idea what he was trying to teach us. When no one raised their hand to answer his questions, he drew diagrams on the board. When still no one could answer, he didn’t have any other way to explain it to us. The only tool in his toolbox was to repeat himself more slowly, and loudly, and to underline the diagram again and again. Needless to say, we were all frustrated. No one learned much geometry in those weeks. We were all glad when our regular teacher came back.

Now imagine if this happened today and the same person with the same professional background was hired as an uncertified teacher to fill a parttime position because he is a content area expert. It wouldn’t be just a few weeks of frustration; it could be a whole year. How much math would students lose out on, not because the content area expert doesn’t know it, but because he doesn’t know how to teach it? Students don’t get that time back.

Don’t experiment with uncertified parttime teachers. It is not in the best interest of students. We urge you to find HB 1298 Inexpedient to Legislate.


Debrah Howes

President, AFT-New Hampshire


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