Crisis in the classroom: Where are the teachers?

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There’s a teacher shortage all across America, including here in KELOLAND and it could only be getting worse.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found fewer students are pursuing careers in teaching and those who do, nearly 30% quit teaching within the first five years.

Kaylee Koch taught school for eight years. At first she thought it was her passion and the hours would give her the flexibility she was looking for in a career..

“Because I really wanted a family career, so something where I would have weekends off, holidays off, and summers off,” Koch said.

But when she had her daughter, she began to realize even those hours became too much.

“It was really difficult for me to go back after being home with her for 12 weeks,” Koch said.

The time and commitment, she says, were overwhelming at times.

“Really throughout the whole school year, you are very tied down to teaching and you really dedicate all of your time to your students,” Koch said. “I just didn’t know if teaching was for me anymore, and really wanted to stay home with her.”

Then when she had her second child, she finally convinced her husband it was time to step away and stay home. Koch is not alone

“The passion, I think when it left me, it was time to do some soul searching as to what direction I wanted to go,” Dave Dreessen said.

Dave Dreessen taught school for seven years, but now he’s a real estate agent and property investor.

“I started getting involved in real estate and I think my passion switched a little bit, I felt sometimes I wanted to answer that calling a little more than the call that involved teaching and coaching so that kind of steered me in that direction,” Dreessen said.

A growing number of school districts across the country are struggling to find teachers.

“We work so hard in the schools to help students be introduced to so many different careers and maybe look at some interest in some of those careers, we’ve never really done a lot to help them be interested in the career of education,” assistant superintendent Jamie Nold said.

So the Sioux Falls School District has implemented a number of programs to try to lure students into becoming teachers. One is called ‘Teacher Pathway.’

“They’ll go and work with elementary students in the classroom one day a week for during that class time it’s a little bit of an extended time, but they’ll go and work with elementary students we pair them up with an elementary and they go in there and work with those students in the classroom and the teacher,” Nold said.

Nold says it’s showing signs of success with over 100 students enrolled in it right now at all four high schools, including New Tech.

The district also has been offering professionals, who don’t have a teaching certificate or a degree in education, internships.

“It can be people from our community that have a bachelor’s degree, but don’t have an education endorsement. They can come in and do that internship as well. We have people apply and there’s anywhere from six to 12 that we have each year that will do that internship,” Nold said.

“The state gives us some flexibility under alternative certification, so, there will be professionals in the community, maybe you’re a chemist, but you’re drawn to the classroom, we can figure out a way through the state, how to make you a teacher,” Becky Dorman said.

Of course pay has always been one of the deterrents. The starting salary in Sioux Falls is $37,000. But for some, it’s not about the pay, it’s about priorities and passion, like it was for Koch.

She’s now working for her husband in property management. She’s worried about the teacher shortage and how it’s affecting classroom sizes.

“My daughter’s teacher is so burnt out every day, there are so many demands on the lower kids, meeting all those expectations of these kids is impossible with that large of class,” Koch said. “Something needs to change because it’s crazy in there every day.”

According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, the United States is short about 110,000 teachers, and that number is expected to double by 2025.

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