Schools look to recruit, retain in face of teacher shortage

Friday, October 15, 2021

The school board discussed a growing teacher shortage during a meeting in Aurelia this week.

The state historically produces about 2,400 new teachers each year, but currently that number is down to 1,700, Superintendent William Walters explained.

Some efforts are being made at the state level to improve the situation. Persons holding a four-year degree can now teach while they are in the process of becoming certified, and colleges are encouraging internships in teaching.

Walters puts limited stock in certification testing, which he said only proves a person is a good test-taker, not necessarily a good teacher. It costs students $700 each time they try the test, on top of their college debt, he said.

“Let us have them here and we will train them,” the superintendent said.

He suggests that the district will need to continue being more proactive in recruiting top young teachers out of college. “We have kids here who want to go into education. It might be in our best interest to help them with tuition - not all of it, but maybe some… the shortage isn’t going away.”

In one recent case, the district was able to hire a highly-sought-after student by making an offer on the spot in a college interview.

The district typically hires new teachers out of BVU, ISU, UNI and Morningside, Walters said, though it is open to grads from other universities. “We’re getting the word out - we’ll take as many student teachers as you can send us.”

The district will also need to focus on retaining its existing staff, he said. “We need to make sure we are taking care of them.” It means a lot of teachers to know the district will provide whatever they need in the classroom, and that it is pursuing evolving technology, he said.

Walters told the board that schools also must attend to the social-emotional needs of staff. “We need to ask how they are feeling, what we can do to help them. If nobody is taking care of them, how are they supposed to take care of students?”

He felt the district is doing well in this regard, but that it can always do more.

Changing needs in education must also be followed, the superintendent said. A committee is working currently on issues like more personalized education, and a goal is in place to have 100 students - double the current number - taking college level classes in high school.