Educators from across the region comprised an expert panel during ECSU’s American Education Week forum to discuss the growing public school teacher shortage in North Carolina Thursday, Nov. 21.
Is there a shortage of teachers in North Carolina? That was the big question Thursday, Nov. 21 during an American Education Week forum at Elizabeth City State University.
ECSU Department of Education chair, Dr. Sheila Williams, welcomed six panelists citing an article from the education profession magazine, NEA Today.
“Is there really a teacher shortage? Yes, it’s real and growing and worse than we thought,” she said.
With that in mind, Dr. Williams gave panelists a series of questions to address.
“How hard is it to hire teachers today compared to 10 years ago?” Dr. Williams asked panelists.
Dr. Catherine Edmonds, superintendent for the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools, said finding qualified teachers and then qualified principals is more of a challenge today than it was 10 years ago.
“I never thought we would see the day we have trouble finding elementary school teachers,” she said. “We’re having to be very creative with how we find our teachers.”
Dr. Shawn Wilson, principal for Gatesville Elementary School, said there is a difference, “and our students are suffering.”
“A lot of (teachers) don’t want to come to small towns. A lot times the pay is too low,” she said.
Oliver Holley is the superintendent for Tyrell County Schools. He says the profession of education is being “dismantled” by politics. Politics, he said, are eroding teacher incentives, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find young people willing to go into the profession.
While the current situation appears dire, these educators were also willing to share their solutions in the midst of mounting pressure to find new teachers. Dr. Williams asked them to talk about their practices and programs in place to recruit teachers.
Billie Berry, chief human resources officer for Camden County Schools, said social media is an important component to reaching new teachers.
“You have to meet people where they are,” he said.
Tyrell Public Schools superintendent Mr. Holley said one strategy is to increase partnerships with universities such as ECSU, East Carolina University and beyond.
“We have to cast a wider net,” he said.
Michelle Maddox is the chief human resources officer for Perquimans County Schools. She says her school district relies heavily on social media to get the word out to prospective teachers.
“We’re trying to turn over every rock we can to recruit teachers,” she said.
Although these school districts are looking for every opportunity to recruit teachers, there is also the issue of new teachers. Dr. Williams asked the panel to talk about why university students are not choosing education as a profession.
Bert Lane is the Title 1 director for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools. He said the perception of the profession needs to change to attract students.
Elizabeth City’s Dr. Edmonds said school loan debt is a big issue for many students. Teacher pay does not address the rising cost of student loan debt.
Ms. Maddox said one concern teachers have today is testing. While maintaining a standard for teachers is important, she said the licensing and exams are excessive, and there is a cost associated to these.
Mr. Holley said it’s very simply about money.
“You know you’re not going to make it,” he said of money. “Where you get your pay is when you see those kids succeed.” Later in the program ECSU students, as well as Mid-Atlantic Christian University students, had the opportunity to ask questions. The event was attended by community members, including retired teacher, Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker.