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Arizona schools suffering from teacher shortages

Arizona schools are struggling to find teachers for certain subjects and also have overall teacher shortages.

“We know that there still are certainly positions that need to be filled based on numbers we’ve seen in the past and some things we’ve heard from the field so far this fall,” said Charles Tack, the deputy public information officer for the Arizona Department of Education.

That number of positions open is approximately 1,000 according to Tack. A survey this month when schools are back in sessions will give them a more approximate number.

As far as the subjects that are the most in need, it’s math, science, and special education according to Tack.

“Typically, when you get to the secondary level in high school you have a need for science and mathematics teachers,” Tack said. “We always tend to have a need for special education teachers as well.”

“It’s a broad need,” Tack said when asked about the subjects that need the most help.

In terms of those teachers filling the shortages, Tack said that all of the educators should have a certification. Whether it’s a substitute certificate, emergency substitute certificate, or full certificates issued to educators who have been fully trained .

There are problems that substitutes pose, such as experience.

“While all substitutes are certified through our office, we know that they will come with varying degrees of teaching experience,” Tack said.

The other problem with substitutes is when they are used in long-term situations.

“We believe our children have a much better chance of success over the long-term if they have a fully certified educator in that classroom who is trained in the subjects and the grade level that they are teaching,” Tack said.

That success also comes with keeping their teachers.

“We know that the real solution is to try to help districts fill those spots and keep teachers so that there is less turnover, and less turnover means you have less of a learning curve for the teachers as well as the students when the new year begins,” Tack said.

There are other ways to get teachers in schools according to Tack.

“Teachers who have experience in certain career paths can sign up for a teaching internship program that allows them to be in the classroom while they’re learning some of the teaching methods that they’ll need to continue on as a successful teacher,” he said.

Tack assured that Arizona’s Department of Education is doing everything it can to solve the problems.

KTAR’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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