This year, classrooms are opening with a combination of optimism and uncertainty. On one hand, this is the first truly “normal” back-to-school opening since the fall of 2019. But on the other, teacher burnout, educator shortages, and mass teacher resignations have plagued districts and states across the nation. Pandemic-related learning loss and student mental health remain among educators’ top concerns.
But, ready or not, back-to-school season is here. Seven educators shed light on their own back-to-school experiences, from early childhood education to STEAM and robotics and teacher recruitment.
Here’s what a return to classrooms looks like for these educators:
Hiring and Retaining Teachers
At Greenville ISD, we have approximately 500 teachers and have about six more positions to fill before the students arrive August 17th. In a small district like ours, that many vacancies means that we’re looking at student-teacher ratios of above the expected 22:1 ratio.
To fill that gap, we have adopted three strategies. First, we have been recruiting people who have bachelor’s degrees and enrolling them into an alternative program to earn their teaching credentials. Second, we have been taking advantage of a program that allows districts of innovation such as ours to hire CTE teachers and then get them certified. Third, we are looking at bringing back retired teachers to work part time—as little as a half day each week—just to ensure we have a teacher for every classroom.
To keep that gap from growing throughout the year, we are offering retention incentives. Teachers will receive a $1,000 bonus for starting with us in September, another $500 if they’re still here at Christmas, and a final $500 award if they are still here at spring break.
As part of our IGNITE TSL grant project, our teachers participate in regular intentional walkthroughs, “coaching for success” sessions, and professional learning communities. By the time we’re into the second six weeks of the school year, all of our teachers will be trained on capturing video of themselves in the classroom to upload into ADVANCEfeedback for self-reflection and the increased confidence that comes with it.
To ensure that our teachers feel safe on campus, we have added front door cameras to our campuses, and our board has authorized police officers from our school district’s police department to be present on each campus and added an alarm for any propped open doors.