WASHINGTON _ Dean Huffman, 56, loves his Vallonia, Ind., farm, and he loves his kids—who now number in the thousands.
Huffman taught science to as many as 200 students a year for 34 years. His love for agriculture and devotion to his students compelled him to drive 50 miles to work each day and then home to his 330-acre farm. He plowed and tilled the ground until midnight, slept for five hours, and then got up to teach again the next morning.
‘‘The rewarding part is touching the soul of these kids and their lives,'' Huffman said.
One of his former students buys timber in Southern Indiana. Another is a horticulture professor at the University of Iowa, and others are veterinarians.
This June, Huffman retired. And over the next 10 years, half of the country's other teachers are expected to do the same. During that time, student enrollment is expected to increase about 6 per cent to more than 54 million students, according to a report from Recruiting New Teachers, a national non-profit organization based in Massachusetts.
In Indiana, enough education students graduate to replace the 19,000 retiring Hoosier teachers, which make up about one-third of the teachers in the state. But many of these graduates never teach and others leave the classroom in five years or less.
As a result, a shortage of teachers and cuts in programs are expected. These shortages are more severe in rural areas, especially in math, science and special education programs.
Latin teachers and classes have already disappeared from many Indiana high schools. David Young, the president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said physics programs are likely to be next as many teachers reach retirement age. But age is not the only reason for the expected teacher shortage, Young and other educators said.
Wages are another factor.
Teachers make about $10,000 less than other college graduates who have at least a Bachelor of Arts, according to a report from Education Week on the Web ( http://www.edweek.org/sreports/ ).
‘‘If you can go to the private sector and earn more money, you're going to leave the teaching profession,'' said Dan Clark, the Deputy Executive Director of ISTA.
Burnout also causes teachers to quit teaching, often in the first five years.
After Huffman graduated from Purdue University in 1966, he worked for a premier vocational agriculture program at Southwestern High School in Hanover, Ind. He thought teaching would give him three months off each summer. He was wrong.
In order to receive money for its vocational program, the high school had to meet certain standards. For Huffman, that meant farm visitations that took him 2000 miles on some weekends. He met each of his 90 students two times a year outside of class, and he taught night classes for farmers.
After four years, Huffman won a National Science Foundation Grant and left Southwestern High School. He enrolled at Ball State University, got a degree in biology and then returned to teaching in Columbus, Ind. There, he taught science courses from agriculture and landscaping to small animal care.
Teachers who return to teaching are not uncommon, Clark said. But most teachers who return only teach part-time. That means teacher shortages, especially in locations where teachers are paid less.
‘‘Anybody who can get in their car and drive 50 miles and make another $5,000, $6,000, $7,000, they're going to do it,'' Clark said.
Improving the teaching profession is an area in which Indiana does lead other states, said Tom Hanson, the Director of Legal and External Affairs at the Indiana Professional Standards Board in Indianapolis, Ind.
The IPSB is developing programs to address the training teachers receive in college and the method for license renewal. The new programs emphasize teachers' competency levels in specific areas instead of the number of courses they have passed.
A two-year induction period will provide mentors and workshops to new teachers. The teachers will submit a portfolio of teaching samples and reflections at the end of the two years.
New research will provide information about teaching, including why some teachers stay and why others leave the classroom.
Indiana is about five years into the reform process and is about two years ahead of the standards that the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) announced in May, Hanson said.
Huffman is still concerned about the amount of paperwork teachers do, which he said distracts from their teaching. Huffman said he had to keep meticulous attendance records instead of using his 55-minute preparation periods to prepare for class.
‘‘That decreases quality of education,'' he said. ‘‘It reduces preparation.''
Huffman is also concerned about the class size, which he said hurts students who do not learn as quickly.
‘‘The slow kids in the class are pushed to the wayside,'' he said. ‘‘I guess society doesn't worry about them … And that kind of perspective drives good teachers out. They say, ‘we're wasting our time, nobody will listen.'''
On June 3, Huffman attended his last graduation as a teacher at Columbus North High School. After it ended, a woman ran across the lawn and embraced him. Then, her husband and daughter walked up and did the same. All three were his students.
‘‘I'd become a grand-teacher,'' he said.
In Indiana, many teachers have taught that long. And reports show younger teachers are deciding they don't want to.