06/22/2010 03:04 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

We Must All Be Teachers

This country needs an army of great new teachers.

With one-third of our veteran teachers set to retire in the next five years, our education system is facing a critical shortage of quality teachers to help train our next generation of leaders to compete for jobs in a global economy. Teaching positions in science and math -- critical subjects that we need for the future -- are often the most difficult to fill, which leaves students lacking the skills they need to succeed.

By 2016, four out of 10 jobs will require some sort of advanced education and training. In an era of a global information economy, education is not just a pathway to success -- it is a prerequisite to success.

Taking a lifelong learning approach.

To do this right and truly make a difference, we need to adopt a lifelong learning approach to education -- one that supports children at all stages of the educational journey. Children deserve not only one good teacher, but a succession of great teachers that make a difference throughout their lives. Growing up, I remember a series of teachers -- Mrs. Schaffer, Mrs. Lebb, and Mrs. Edwards -- that challenged me to be better and learn in a dynamic way. Their impact, year-over-year, helped mold me into the person I have become today.

Service as a strategy to advance education reform.

As businesses, citizens and members of our communities, it is our responsibility to help translate our expertise and skills to the next generation and help fill in critical knowledge gaps.

One viable way to do this is through service and volunteering. While we can't all be full time teachers, businesses can be an important vehicle that mobilizes its employees to serve and advance key issues, like education, in communities and the marketplace at large.

Case study: one classroom, two nonprofits, and a world of difference.

A large focus for PricewaterhouseCoopers is contributing to the development of youth education programs, specifically in the areas of math and financial literacy.

John Feeney, an associate in our audit practice in Portland, Ore., knew from experience that if you saved your pennies and dimes as a child, you could turn them into dollars as an adult. Since he was six years old, John put his leftover change into a "Washington D.C. fund" so he would have the chance to explore the history and monuments of the nation's capital. Eight years later, his dream came true. John wanted to show students that if you make smart investment decisions early, you can have greater rewards later.

Through one of our flagship programs, Project Make [it] Count, which provides $450 in seed money to partners and staff to design and implement a service project in their community, John set out to make a difference at Oswego High School in Portland.

Over a series of lessons he taught basic investment concepts, such as long-term and short-term investing, risk management and return on investment. Teams of students then created investment portfolios to apply what they'd learned to real life scenarios. At the end of the project the top two teams with the greatest returns received $300 and $100 to donate to the two charities of their choice.

The program was so successful that it helped catalyze additional school contests and projects for students around financial literacy and investments that could also benefit communities.

To me, John is a great example of who we all can and should be--mentors and teachers for children.

Education is the catalyst for the future.

Great teaching is so much more than education. It is about igniting curiosity, confidence and imagination. It is about creating opportunities for a child to thrive and succeed. Through service, we can open doors for students. Through service, we can be the "Mrs. Schaffer" and "Mrs. Edwards" -- the ones children remember. Through service, we can bridge the gap between the world as it is and what it should be.

This is the second in a series of blog posts leading up to the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the world's largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, government and corporate sectors.