Statewide teacher shortage continues as school year approaches

Statewide teacher shortage continues as school year approaches

Pine Belt, Miss. (WDAM) - School starts in a few days and the teacher shortage remains a real problem across Mississippi, including in the Pine Belt.

The Mississippi Department of Education reported 50 school districts in the Magnolia State currently lack enough educators. Critical shortage subjects include math, science and foreign language.

Multiple school districts talked with us about shortage in their district.

Laurel School District Superintendent Dr. Toy Watts said in 2018 the teacher shortage was an issue.

“Yes, actually last school year we began the year short several teachers," Watts said. “I know at the high school, in particular, we were short for math teachers.”

Watts talked about how recruitment played a major part in filling several positions.

“We had to have our own job fairs," Watts said. “And we attended at least five college fairs recruiting people for the Laurel School District and it’s been fairly successful.”

Watts said the Laurel School District has a few things they are still looking for in teachers.

“We can work on the skill portion if they are committed, and they love working with children and they want to make a difference," Watts said. “That’s what we’re looking for most of all.”

In 2018 students had the opportunity to take online classes on a program called Edgenuity to learn subjects like math and science, according to Watts.

“The only option we had when we started the year last year was to go to a computer program that offers instruction from a certified teacher through a computer-based format,” said Watts.

Even though districts have had to be creative in the midst of the teacher shortage, technology and computer-based systems can never replace the relationships between students and their teachers in the classroom.

WDAM caught up with other school districts across the Pine Belt, including the Lamar and Forrest County school districts. Schools within those districts tell us there is a need for teachers.

Lamar County School District Superintendent Tess Smith said it’s hard to find certified staff to fill teacher slots.

“We’re getting it done," Smith said. “But you know, sometimes you have to be a little creative with it.”

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