Schools still facing teacher shortages as school year begins

RENSSELAER, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With the new academic year starting up, some local schools are still grappling with the national teacher shortage.

Statewide enrollment in teacher education programs has declined 53 percent since 2009, causing an increased demand for teachers. A demand only met with obstacles as more teachers begin to retire, more students are expected to enroll in school and fewer people enter the teaching profession.

New York State United Teachers President, Andy Pallotta, said increased threats to schools and the effects of the pandemic on education have only hindered efforts to recruit more educators.

“Not only does a teacher worry about or have anxiety or stress about the regular job of teaching, but there’s the violence that they have to concern themselves with,” Pallotta said. “Preparing for that, are there appropriate levels of staffing with the schools?”

Pallotta said New York State is seeing persistent shortages in teachers interested in the languages, STEM and special education. Rensselaer City School District faced their own challenge, hiring six new special education teachers for the new academic year.

Director of Pupil and Personnel Services, Dr. Amy Prabhakaran, says the district spent months recruiting the right people for the job.

“Teachers have to be certified in different areas in terms of grade level but also in terms of content areas,” Prabhakaran said. “So, that can also present challenges in terms of finding people that are available that have the right mix of certifications to meet the requirements.”

Some schools are enrolled in a “grow your own” program through NYSUT, a three-year-program that shows students a future in teaching and helps them get the resources and education needed to take the next step in their career.

Pallotta said enrollment in “grow your own” has continued to increase since it was first implemented.

“A lot of parents and the general public saw how difficult it was at the height of COVID and remote teaching, learning how difficult that was,” Pallotta said. “But, what we have now is, through “grow your own,” through take a look at teaching, we are making advancements in it. Is it tough? Yes, because you have to change your whole mindset.”

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