State continues to address teacher shortage - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State continues to address teacher shortage

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April 14, 2008

Albany--  It's projected Georgia will need more than 132,000 teachers by 2012. Right now, we're about 17,000 teachers short of that goal.  

The gap could get wider as more teachers retire or leave the profession early.   The Board of Regents of the University of Georgia recognized the growing problem years ago. They came up with an ambitious plan to recruit and retain teachers.

State institutions produced more than 20,000 new teachers since 2002, an increase of 44 percent, but there's still work to do.

1st grade teacher Kanese Shavers was bitten by the teaching bug early. "I can remember playing with my chalkboard when I was younger," said Shavers.

That's when she wrote out her plan to help shape future dreamers. "You get to see them basically growing up and learning different things, their lives changing right before your eyes," said Shavers.

But it's a challenging job. "It is," said Shavers.

It's also a challenge for schools all over the state to get teachers to step up to the plate. "We struggle in some areas," said Dougherty County School Superintendent Dr. Sally Whatley.

In Dougherty County there's a need for advanced placement, math and science teachers. Here and statewide, there's also a need to find highly qualified teachers who are certified. 11.4 percent of teachers in the state aren't fully certified according to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. International Studies Elementary Principal Wanda Mallard says many can't pass the exams.

"And that's the only thing.  Wonderful teachers have evidence of moving children along academically.  They do a wonderful job and are highly motivated but just that test," said Mallard. So the search is on for those who can pass the test.

"Our human resource department has done a lot of creative things. We recruit all over the Southeast," said Whatley, "it's something that's very important for us to have a highly qualified teacher in every single classroom so that's always going to remain a priority for us."

Shavers says she was prepared for the education test a long time ago. "It has to be more than love. It has to be a passion. It has to be something you really want to do," said Shavers.

She hopes to continue doing it and hopefully there will continue to be more just like her.

Dr. Sally Whatley says right now the system is faring better than it has in previous years. They've also continued partnerships with Albany State and other schools to retain some of their graduates right here in Dougherty County.

Another problem is that many of those new hires don't last. 15-percent of new teachers in Georgia leave after their first year, 26-percent after three, and 35-percent after five.

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