How the Portland teachers' strike is affecting UP’s education majors
News > How the Portland teachers' strike is affecting UP’s education majors

How the Portland teachers' strike is affecting UP’s education majors

Teachers and supporters picketing outside of Roosevelt High School on Nov. 1
by Natalie Gordon / The Beacon

One week into the Portland Public School District’s first ever teacher strike, University of Portland education majors are getting a lesson outside the classroom about challenges that come with their chosen profession. 

The strike, which started on Nov. 1, has impacted approximately 43,000 students in the district, leaving their guardians to deal with the indirect results. The Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) is requesting the district to increase their salaries, reduce classroom sizes and offer funding for additional resources.

“I'm having an eyewitness account of the stress from the strike and how it's impacting teachers themselves,” senior education major Janna King said. “I think without that firsthand knowledge, I mean, it almost feels like teachers get to take some time off to picket and that’s not the case.”

With negotiations between PAT and the school district ongoing, education majors are losing out on their field experience, and for seniors specifically, their student teaching time.

The School of Education is partnered with eight schools in the Portland School District. 

Sophomore elementary education major Sophia VanCamp is placed at Astor elementary school for her field experience. As an anchor seminar leader, VanCamp hears her first-year students talk about how the strike is impacting them. 

“I have half of the first-year education majors in my class and a lot of them are concerned about this, especially because a lot of my students got their hours late,” VanCamp said. “A lot of people in the school of ed have been struggling with starting their hours because there’s not enough classrooms to put us in.”

First-years and sophomores are required to complete 36 hours of field experience,  juniors 72 and seniors 72 hours of student teaching. Because of the strikes, students will not have to make up any hours they lose.

“This is beyond [their] control,” Director of Clinical Practice for the School of Education Joan Flora said. “[They] couldn’t possibly be in school when they’re striking.”

by Natalie Gordon / The Beacon

According to an email sent out to education majors, first-years, sophomores and juniors are discouraged from joining the picket lines. Seniors are asked to consider what they know about the conflict and reach out to Flora if they feel compelled to support on the front lines. 

“The complexity of a really profound professional argument like this — I just think it’s hard to really understand it,” Flora said. “I think joining a picket line for something you don’t fully understand is probably not the best.” 

With this recommendation in mind, some students share conflicting feelings about approaching how to support the teachers they work with. 

Sophomore elementary education major Olivia Vandaele recalls reading about the Camas School District teacher strike that started toward the end of August. Now that she’s seeing first hand what a strike looks like in a district she works in, there’s confusion about her role as a student in regard to supporting the teachers she works with. 

“I think they’re doing the right thing and if they don’t advocate for themselves, nothing is going to change,” Vandaele said. “Being on the outside of that as a student, [...]  we’re supporting the teachers — but in what way? It’s just kind of confusing what our place is as students.”

Education majors who are on the cusp of entering the workforce continue to navigate the teacher strike as it puts into perspective what the future will look like for them. 

Children in the crowd supporting PAT at Roosevelt High School.
by Natalie Gordon / The Beacon

For some, the strike has increased the passion and drive to become a teacher. 

“It encourages me to want to be a teacher and makes me have more passion because I see that they can change things,” Vandaele said. 

Junior secondary education major Kayako Olson has no doubt about joining the picket lines among the teachers who are fighting for better wages and resources. 

“I’m going to be spending my time at teacher strikes and teacher unions,” Olson said. “I don’t expect field experience hours from that. But in my brain, that does count as field experience. I totally imagine that when I'm a teacher, it’s going to be expensive. So this to me is the most ideal field experience, even though it's pretty sad.”

The strike also provides a sense of comfort for VanCamp who attended the rally and march on Oct. 28 in downtown Portland before the strike became official. The unwavering support she witnessed eases concerns about navigating her future profession.

“I cried afterwards,” VanCamp said. “I was just very emotional because I think something that really stuck out to me is like the amount of kids that were there. Teachers who are bringing their kids but also like students — high schoolers who are there to support their teachers. It shows the students want this just as much as the teachers. That made me feel really good.”

Janea Melido is the News and Managing Editor for The Beacon. She can reached at

Tiffany Marquez Escobar contributed to this story. She can be reached at