The first day of school is just one week away, and it is not just for students. This year, 156 new teachers will head classrooms in the Sioux Falls School District. Emily Palmer was hanging up some wall art for the first day of her new job as an English - Literature teacher at Lincoln High School. However, this technically is not Palmer's first classroom.
"I mean, I remember making my sister sit down in the basement, and I would make math worksheets," Palmer said.
Even as a little girl, Palmer was determined to educate students. She said knowing most starting teachers in South Dakota make less than $30,000 a year was not going to stop her.
"It's going to seem like a lot to me because coming out of college... You know, odd jobs," Palmer said.
According to the National Education Association's website, teachers can make thousands more in Iowa, Minnesota and Wyoming. In the last month, state superintendents have said there is a teacher shortage in South Dakota. Some have said they are seeing only a handful of applicants, sometimes less, for an open position. Years ago, they saw at least 60 for a single position. They say a low starting salary is to blame.
"Everybody's got to start somewhere. Once you realize that, and work your way up, that's great," Drake Bachmeier said. Bachmeier is a new special education and physical education teacher at Lincoln.
Though Palmer and Bachmeier both applied in other states, they were set on staying in South Dakota. Bachmeier said he did not get into teaching for the money. He said the impact he hopes he makes on his students is more important than his starting salary.
"Hopefully they see me at HyVee, or something (in the future), and they're like, 'Mr. Bachmeier, how's it going?' I'm going to be a 50-year-old, and they're like, 'Hey, I'm going to be a teacher someday.' I'm like, 'Wow, I really did something,'" Bachmeier said.
Palmer agreed, but said she also hopes the state will invest more money in education in the future.
"I feel like teachers have very high expectations, which is great. That's what it needs to be, but the salary doesn't necessarily reflect that," Palmer said.