An ongoing teacher shortage is forcing many South Dakota educators to do a little extra work.
The teacher shortage left 300 teaching positions open across the state as of the start of the school year. Although this number is higher than normal, it is lower than the 520 positions opened in April.
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Schools are experiencing a shortage of certified positions like teachers, as well as uncertified staff like paraprofessionals. This forces schools to provide other options for teaching students. Some school districts are also changing their recruiting strategies.
Watertown School District could use more specialist teachers
Jeff Danielsen, superintendent of the Watertown School District, said the district lacked a few special education teachers. For this reason, current special education teachers in the district are currently being moved in order to fill these blocks.
But the school district was able to fill most of its uncertified job openings, Danielsen said. Paraprofessionals, staff members who support teachers but are not certified to teach themselves, have helped teachers with things like supervision, he said.
Although the issue was significant before the COVID-19 pandemic, Danielsen said it was unusual for the school district not to start the year with full staff. Watertown has changed its recruiting strategy in recent years by contacting employment offices at colleges and universities offering education programs in other states. While the district previously focused on schools in South Dakota, it is now also focusing on colleges in North Dakota and Minnesota.
The district also struggled to fill a music teaching position. Fortunately, a retired music teacher took over the class, Danielsen said.
In the Aberdeen Public School District, Superintendent Becky Guffin said there was an opening for a language arts teacher as well as a special education position. This is the first time in years that the district has started the year without a full membership. The other high school language teachers stepped up to fill this void, causing them to lose their planning block. It was approved by the school board, she said.
A student graduating in December will take over the language arts position in January, Guffin said.
In Doland, a Minnesota teacher manages music lessons virtually
Doland School District Superintendent Garrett Schmidt said his district also lacked a music teacher. Because the school district is small, a music teacher manages music lessons for all students, he said.
Since the position was unfilled, Schmidt said an educator from Minnesota teaches the class virtually the majority of the time, visiting campus two days a month.
That teacher has a contract for the rest of the year, Schmidt said, meaning the position is not currently listed. After seeing how the rest of this year goes, Schmidt said the district will reassess the situation to determine if the position should be reopened.
Although this was Schmidt’s first year at Doland, he worked in several other school districts in South Dakota and Minnesota where he encountered the same problem. While the Doland District is fortunate to have teachers stepping in, sometimes the job is just too much. And while teachers have pushed for higher salaries in South Dakota, Schmidt said the effects of higher salaries and signing bonuses haven’t been as big as hoped.
Recruiting teachers is tough for small school districts like Leola
Leola School District superintendent Beverly Myer said the district has also been experimenting with virtual education in recent years. Leola set up an online English learning program several years ago because she couldn’t find anyone to teach the class, she said.
Recruitment in rural areas is difficult, Myer said. But the district has begun participating in more teacher fairs and monitoring graduate students in Northern State University’s teaching program.
The school district also has paraprofessionals who are working toward getting their license to teach, Myer said.
Roncalli employee in master to become a teacher
That’s what Michelle O’Keefe does at Roncalli High School in Aberdeen. She currently hosts the school’s STREAM program. STREAM stands for science, technology, religion, art and mathematics.
O’Keefe holds a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing from Northern State University. She is working towards a master’s degree in teaching and, she says, will integrate multimedia design into her courses.
O’Keefe is part of Northern’s Masters in Secondary Education program, which is aimed at people changing careers to enter teaching. Previously, she worked at Roncalli for four years in the development office, raising funds for the STREAM lab. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she started teaching as a substitute. Last year she worked as a teacher’s aide and decided she wanted to teach full time. In addition to facilitating the STREAM program, she also works as a teacher’s aide with some of the special needs students at the school.
She said she had been considering making the transition to a teaching career for several years. When she kept hearing about the teacher shortage, it felt like it was time to take the plunge, O’Keefe said.
Roncalli Superintendent Tim Weisz said the district is fully staffed with six new elementary and one high school staff. While Weisz said it’s not necessarily easy to fill vacancies, directors have done a great job of recruiting by building relationships with universities that offer education programs and posting job vacancies. online job.