The Florida Department of Education identified seven areas as facing a critical teacher shortage for next school year.
Those areas are:
- Exceptional Student Education
- Foreign Language
- English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
ESE teacher Amanda Sligh teaches almost 20 second-graders at Bellamy Elementary School in Tampa.
"They have the greatest demeanor and they have the greatest drive to have success academically," said Sligh.
Principal Francine Lazarus says the list comes out every year and many of the areas stay on the list, including ESE.
"These are incredibly rewarding jobs but they’re not easy jobs and so it takes a special person to be able to do that and sometimes it’s hard to find those people," said Lazarus.
Sligh, previously a speech and language teacher, is a new ESE teacher. She participated in an alternative certification program when she learned of the need last year.
"Being that person they’re familiar with I think is huge for an ESE student, I think they need routine, they need structure, and they need people that they know and I think that really kind of guided me where I was like I think I can do this," said Sligh.
Now wrapping up her first year, Sligh is glad she made the move.
"You see the joy on their faces when they learn a new word or they solve a math problem correctly or they’re able write their first sentence like that is such an overwhelming feeling of success for you, but success for them," she said.
But Sligh says the field needs more teachers, and as a result, she's concerned for future students.
"I worry about them you know, I worry. I want more people to come into this field," said Sligh.
To ease some of that worry, the State Board of Education says its responding.
“One of the ways that Florida responds to the teacher shortage is through the state’s teacher preparation programs that are available at 60 Florida higher education institutions and over 20 school districts, said Claudia Claussen in an email to Bay News 9.
“As part of the continued approval process for teacher preparation programs, bonus points are awarded to programs that increase the production of teachers identified in rule as critical teacher shortage areas.”
“Florida also annually hosts the Great Florida Teach-In event for educators, both in-state and nationally, who are interested in seeking employment in one of these teacher shortage subjects. During this state-sponsored event, school districts and charter schools connect with educators seeking teaching positions in these high need areas,” wrote Claussen.