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Alabama continues to see a shortage of teachers in the classroom

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 11:03 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2021 at 11:18 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Ask any teacher and they’ll probably tell you education is a calling, but its also a profession, and advocates say that profession needs to be attractive to hire, keep and retain teachers.

The pandemic is shining a bright light on Alabama’s on-going teacher shortage. Historically, math and science teachers were in high demand, but now, elementary schools are feeling the impacts.

“We’re starting to see an applicant pool that’s not very deep in elementary levels as well. When you are seeing elementary jobs with no applicants, that’s a problem,” William Tunnell, a manager of UniServ Organizing with the Alabama Education Association said.

Special needs teachers are also in demand along with bus drivers and school nurses.

“It’s one big family, we can’t forget the fact that we have a shortage of substitutes as well. The pandemic absolutely made an impact on our substitutes,” Tunnell said.

To combat the growing problem, the state legislature approved money for pay raises and incentive packages. The Alabama Education Association continues to work with state leaders to do more.

The state education department is also targeting high school and college students and current and retired educators with the “We Teach Alabama” campaign, which is pushed across social media, radio and TV in hopes of recruiting and retaining teachers.

Tunnell says gone are the days Alabama competes with nearby states to attract teachers and employees.

“People are so mobile. We’re competing with states far away, so its national competition to get teachers in their classrooms,” Tunnell said.

Teachers are also retiring at levels not seen in nearly 10 years according to Alabama’s Teacher Retirement System.

The AEA says the shortages are not an overnight fix, but they’re trying to find the right solutions to keep folks in the classroom.

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