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Arizona teacher shortage continues

Teacher shortage across Arizona
Posted at 4:53 AM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 08:53:15-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Schools across Arizona have struggled with teacher shortages for many years, but the pandemic exacerbated the problem. A recent survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association showed alarming results for the number of teacher vacancies.

Justin Wing, a past president of ASPAA and assistant superintendent of human resources, said the data is similar to last year's count.

"We show the data because we aren't satisfied with being the same," he said. "You know, 25 percent of teacher jobs that need to be filled remain vacant a month into the school year."

The survey shows about 55 percent of the vacancies are filled by people not meeting standard teacher requirements. In Tucson, the human resources director for Tucson Unified School District, Renee Heusser said many of the educators in the district have endured many challenges in the last year and a half.

“I think they are tired," she said. "They’ve been asked to adapt to a lot in the last year and a half and they are tired,you know schools are supporting their teachers the best they can."

She said teachers have been leaving the profession for years and the pandemic didn't help the issue. With the transition back to in-person learning, students and educators are learning to adjust.

But this year, it's not just educators that are in short supply. Janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school personnel are all understaffed.

"The labor shortage over all - it's just much bigger than just teachers," Heusser said. "And that's what's new because we haven't seen that in the past."

Teachers like Pueblo High School's Cristobal Santa Cruz said with the online component it was difficult to connect with students on a personal level, which is one of many challenges that he faced in the past year.

"Last year - it really checked your tenacity and grit as far as being a teacher, and I’m speaking for all teachers," he said. "Obviously it was completely unorthodox the way we taught and I do not want to return to that."

Wing said this is a problem without an easy solution.

"It didn't happen over night," he said. "It's a systemic issue.

He said it's about inspiring students to become teachers but even if decisions were made to solve the problem, the results wouldn't be visible until three to four years.

"We are assuming that if we made drastic decisions you're motivating those high school seniors to go into teaching," Wing said. "It'll take them three to four years for them to be certified to teach."