Friends are sitting around a campfire when a man asks the woman next to him about her job.
“It was fourth period biology, Phoebe was gnawing on a brain, Anna was hissing like a feral cat,” she said.
Her camping peers are frozen stiff as she continues to describe a fictional zombie apocalypse in her classroom that claimed every human — part of a sketch to illustrate to her students how viruses spread.
It’s all in an ad with the tagline: “Teachers have better work stories.”
The scene is from a public service video ad that’s part of a new campaign to attract more students and others to teaching careers as California grapples with a teaching shortage. There are two ads – with more on the way — featuring teachers talking about their jobs and why they enjoy teaching.
The campaign is a collaboration between the California Center on Teaching Careers, TEACH, a nonprofit which promotes teaching and the Ad Council, a nonprofit that produces and distributes campaigns on “significant public issues.” Their plan is to air public service advertisements on television and radio. The campaign will also appear on social media and billboards.
Ad Council is in the process of placing the ads with its media partners.
The center, created last year with $9.4 million in state funds, aims to reverse the recent trend of teachers exiting the workforce and students looking past the career altogether. Enrollment in the state’s teacher preparation programs has declined more than 70 percent over the past decade, according to the Learning Policy Institute. Another institute study found that 75 percent of districts in 2016 were experiencing teacher shortages, particularly in math, science, special education and bilingual positions.
Some regions in the state have shortages beyond those disciplines. “In the Central Valley, the demand for elementary teachers is as great as special ed, math and science,” said Donna Glassman-Sommer, executive director of the center.
“But I think the overall message out there is to really think about elevating the profession of teaching and to really look at inspiring individuals to come into the field of education and think about it as an honorable career,” she said.
The second ad in the campaign shows a teacher describing how he got through to a student struggling with fractions. “I created a combat math game where the only way to beat the enemy is to out-fraction them. [The student] conquered every last one of them.”
The teacher then turns to his companion and asks how her day went.
“Today, my boss treated the office to salad wraps.”
The partners are covering the costs of producing the ads. “The Ad Council is also leveraging their connections to secure donated airtime, which we expect to bring the value of our initial PSA campaign to millions of dollars,” Glassman-Sommer said.
In addition to the ad campaigns, the center in the spring will host an online jobs fair to connect interested candidates with local school employers.