Districts feel impact as Texas Tech continues to address teacher shortage

Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 10:47 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A West Texas superintendent says the time is now to address the rural teacher shortage. Texas Tech University has an additional $1.5 million to address that problem. The university is working with other universities, community colleges and school districts to make a cleaner pathway to become an educator, through the West Texas Rural Education Partnership. Since 2021, it’s recruited 48 educators to teach in 18 rural districts.

Regional educators say they need the program’s success to continue. Brownfield I. S. D. Superintendent Chris Smith says the teacher shortage used to be talked about as a problem down the road, but that’s not the case anymore.

“The teacher shortage that is going on nationwide, but more specifically in Texas is is really alarming. There’s not as many applicants for a lot of positions that people have all over the state, and especially in this region. When you start talking about rural schools finding qualified candidates is sometimes challenging, so that’s why I’m glad that there is a partnership that exists that is seeking to tackle that challenge,” he said.

The partnership includes making sure credits count when teacher-candidates transfer schools. It also places teachers in rural districts for their residencies, with a district-based teacher-educator, who coaches them along the way. Director Doug Hamman says Texas Tech is trying to help other universities, like West Texas A&M University, University of Texas Permian Basin, and the University of Texas at El Paso adopt a similar model.

“If they’re from a rural community, that’s something that they value and want to return to. And if they’re not from a rural community, this will give them a chance to see what it’s like and maybe they’ll stay,” Hamman said.

Hamman says many teachers attracted to rural schools have earned their education through an alternative certification. That can mean they start with less training, leading to higher turnover. Smith says the partnership with Texas Tech addresses that problem.

“We’re not only talking about filling positions, we’re talking about filling positions with high quality teachers, teacher candidates who are well-trained,” Smith said.

In its first year, the program has recruited 48 educators to teach in 18 rural districts. Over the next three years, its goal is to produce more than 250 a year.

“There’s a lot to be done in order for that to be a reality. But, we’re making progress,” Hamman said.

Through this partnership, 10 candidates have been placed at Brownfield I. S. D.

Hamman says he’s excited to expand this program and dig into getting middle and high schoolers interested in a teaching career.

“It’s a great time to be a teacher in Texas, in my opinion, and we just need to communicate that with these young people and say this is viable,” Hamman said.

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