CHARLESTON, W.Va. — College students entering the teaching profession in West Virginia say the result of the recent teacher strike will benefit them.
“I think it affects the teachers going into education more than the ones that are retiring,” said Skyler Tomblin, a senior at West Virginia State University, during a job fair at the school Thursday.
Governor Jim Justice signed a five percent pay raise bill Tuesday for all teachers and state employees, ending a nine-day work stoppage. Educators protested at the state Capitol each day to demand better pay and a permanent funding fix to the Public Employees Health Insurance Agency.
Tomblin said she hopes a PEIA fix comes sooner rather than later because, eventually, she will need to be on her own insurance plan.
“I’m on my parents’ insurance until I’m 26, so that part doesn’t affect me, but it will,” she said.
Daniel Thomas, another senior at WVSU, said the strike didn’t concern him.
“However it turned out, I was still going to become a teacher. It didn’t affect me much. It affected in a good way. We get a raise and hopefully they’ll work on PEIA, but wouldn’t have mattered either way,” Thomas said.
Several West Virginia county schools systems were at Thursday’s job fair to conduct interviews with students.
Kim Olsen with Kanawha County Schools said she informed student interviewees about the pay hike. She said she hopes that will attract more teachers to her county.
“I think recruiting will be better because we’ll be able to show that we’re more competitive with salaries,” Olsen said.
West Virginia still faces some challenges following the recent strike, according to Jim Holland, principal at Musselman Middle School in Berkeley County.
“It’s a mixed bag. I think people are nervous about sticking in West Virginia, but the thing is it proves that teachers will stand up for themselves and will stand up for education. That’s the thing I’ve been so pleased to see,” Holland said.
Elizabeth Thompson with Logan County Schools agreed and said she believes there’s a new admiration for teachers and school service workers.
“I think it elevated the respect level for teachers and the pay increase was definitely needed, so hopefully we’ll get more people interested in coming to West Virginia schools.”