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Stateline schools get creative as teacher shortage surges

Education leaders share their plans to get through a successful school year, short staffed.
Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 5:34 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Schools across the nation are still struggling to fill teaching vacancies, including schools along the Stateline.

“I think the major problem is that we have a good number of older teachers who are retiring, and just not that many young people entering the profession,” said Rockford Education Association President Mel Gilfillan. “Like I said, it is a tough job. It’s a rewarding job, but also not one of the highest paying jobs.”

According to Gilfillan, the local shortage started roughly five years ago, but the pandemic made it even worse.

“If you’re a secondary teacher, you could see up to 150 kids in a school day. You know, five or six class periods of thirty students,” said Gilfillan. “I think that has scared people off.”

Freeport School District filled 27 positions with retired teachers, substitute teachers, and some teachers finishing their own education. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Chris Shockey said only a fraction of people apply.

“Special education, a bilingual teacher or a secondary science teacher might be the only hard to fill positions there are,” said Shockey. “Now, I think it would be fair to say most, if not all, the positions could be considered hard to fill teaching positions.”

Gilfillan said Rockford area schools offer incentives like a housing incentive for young new teachers. They also have recruiting trips to colleges, but there is not as many people going to school to become teachers anymore.

Shockey said the Freeport School District tries to grow its teaching pool internally by helping staff advance their education and mentoring students who might come back to teach in the district.

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