Teacher Shortage in South Florida

We send our kids to school every day and just expect teachers to be there, but it’s not that simple. There aren’t enough teachers to go around.

"We would anticipate that we’re gonna have about 1,500 vacancies to start off the school year,” said Susan Rockelman, the director of talent acquisition for Broward County Public Schools.

You read that correctly: the Broward County school district is expecting a shortfall of 1,500 teachers for next school year, due to attrition, fewer college graduates going into the profession, and expanding school programs and student bodies.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools wouldn’t provide a number for this report, but it’s reasonable to assume the district, which is significantly larger than Broward’s, will have a similar amount of teacher positions open.

Both districts are busy recruiting teachers now for current openings as well as the expected open positions for next school year. Rockelman leads the effort in Broward, and says because it’s especially hard to lure qualified science, technology, and math teachers, her team casts a wide net.

"We will go to the universities and we specifically will go and talk to engineering classes, mathematics classes and to those schools of education and let those students know there are careers in education for them,” Rockelman said. “Some people have the idea that you had to go to school to become a teacher, however that is not correct.”

One study showed a 35-percent enrollment decrease nationwide in teacher preparation programs from the years 2009 to 2014. How should society reverse that trend?

"Invest in education, and invest in our teachers and the future pipeline of educators so that it’s a well-respected position and it’s well-compensated," said Robert Runcie, Broward School Superintendent.

If it was just about salary, it would be even harder to recruit anyone to teach science classes and other areas of need, such as special education and language arts. However, veteran teachers will tell you there are many more rewards to the job than just a paycheck.

Katie O’Fallon went from marine biologist to science teacher to the magnet program coordinator at New River Middle School, and she’s never regretted the move to her new profession.

"It makes you feel like, I’ve made a difference and I am leaving my legacy in each and every one of these students," O’Fallon said. "I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of information that’s not being shared with people about how much you can really impact students and how rewarding it can really be."

Starting base salaries for teachers in Broward range from $40,724 to $45,254. In Miami-Dade, the starting base salary for a rookie teacher is $40,800. It’s tough to pull people from the tech sector into teaching with salaries like that. That’s why recruiters are looking for people who might be dissatisfied with their current careers and are looking for a change, especially a job that has three months off. The school districts will train career-changing professionals to take their expertise into the classroom.

"When we’re looking for teachers we’re looking for someone who’s passionate about being with children, it’s not always about the money they’re gonna be making," Rockelman said.

We’re fairly certain that most teachers know that already.

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