Teacher shortage ‘significant’ in WV as students prepare to head back to school

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Ongoing challenges specific to West Virginia are impacting pending teacher shortages in the state’s public school system as students get ready to head back to class this month.

Carla Warren

In 2021, the state Department of Education reported 1,196 teacher vacancies, but officials believe that number could increase this year.

“We’re still dealing with the pandemic, resignations and teachers entering the field, so I think that number is projected to go higher,” Dr. Carla Warren, director of Educator Development and Support, said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Not only is it difficult to attract teachers to the profession, Warren said, it’s also just as difficult to keep them. She said many end up leaving the classroom within the first few years on the job.

“We have 18 educator preparation programs in the state. Of those 18 preparation programs, nine of those programs graduated less than 20 teachers last year,” Warren said.

The reason behind the shortages is tough to pinpoint, she said, but it could be because many are stressed out and don’t receive enough pay compared to other states.

Warren also cited challenges stemming from the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.

“We have over 7,000 children in foster care, over 10,000 children identified as homeless in West Virginia, you look at our declining population with 65 percent with a high school diploma or less,” she said. “So teachers are pulling double duty many times to support those students.”

Being a teacher is not an easy job, Warren said.

“It’s hard to be a good teacher, but I will tell you going into my 35th year in education, there’s no substitute for the joy that a career in teaching can bring to an individual,” she said.

As for the students, Warren said there is a concern they are not receiving quality education because there aren’t enough certified teachers. There are still teachers in the classroom, but some don’t specialize in critical need areas like math, science or special education.

“These are not necessarily classrooms that don’t have a living body in them. These are classrooms who do not have a fully certified teacher in them,” she said.

Some schools districts are reporting an increase in the number of new teachers hired this season. A spokesperson with Wood County Schools told MetroNews in a Friday email they’ve had 62 new hires compared to previous years were they’ve only hired around 15-25, yet the district still has about 35 open positions.

Wood County’s greatest need is in the area of special education. Earlier this week. the Wood County Board of Education approved a $3,000 signing bonus for those positions, allowed by the state. It’s the first time the county has offered such a bonus. The district is now working to make the bonus more accessible and attractive to potential candidates.

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