Update on Teacher Shortages

Throughout the nation, school districts are battling with record teacher shortages. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States has been battling with filling these vacancies. There is currently an estimate of 36,500 vacancies in the country. The education labor market shrank by 9% from March to May 2020. In Rutherford County, teachers fell by 6.8%, custodians by 6%, and bus drivers by 15%. 

As of the beginning of this school year, 1,000 teaching positions needed to be filled in Tennessee, with 800 being in Middle Tennessee. 88 teachers were needed in Rutherford County only weeks before the start of the 2022-2023 school year. The county began offering sign-on bonuses with the hope of drawing in more teachers. 

Preexisting teacher shortages in areas such as special education, bilingual education, and early education have only worsened. Research also shows that teacher shortages have a disproportionate effect on students of color. 

There is a mixture of causes of the teacher shortages across the country. Since 2019, there’s been a decline of undergraduates pursuing education degrees. Many teachers have decided to retire in the past two years due to the pandemic and its effects. 

Blackman High School has not been affected heavily by teacher shortages because previous principal Dr. Leisa Justus worked hard in her transition to make sure the school was as fully staffed as possible.  

“So, I think another thing that’s worked to our advantage is that we have a long history of really great teachers and really great students and really great families, which makes it an attractive place to work. I think we’re in a great part of town with lots of housing options, so it’s easy to sell Blackman to perspective teachers when you describe all of its aspects and features,” stated current principal, Justin Smith. 

Schools are exploring a variety of ways to decrease the number of teacher shortages. Many schools are offering a program where people without teaching degrees can go into the field and train while teaching. 

“I think any time that you’re trying to solve a problem, you’ve got to be creative,” said Smith. 

Blackman High School is working on introducing a teaching program next year for students interested in a career in education, like we have had in prior years.  

“We’re not going to fix a teacher shortage if we’re not producing more teachers. That is simple. Well, if anyone should be producing more educators, it’s educators. In our school, we should have a teaching as a profession program,” stated Smith. 

As schools across the county, state, and country continue to suffer from teaching shortages, schools are made to produce backup ideas as the 2023 school year approaches. More programs are sprouting across the country to encourage a variety of educators with different skill sets to teach to hopefully fill the empty classrooms.