How Can We Tackle the Teacher Shortage in Tennessee?September 9, 2022
by Abbey Arnold
A teacher shortage in Tennessee threatens schools as more teachers leave the profession than enter it. Teaching is one of our society’s most vital professions. However, teacher vacancies are escalating across the entire United States. Here are some of the high-level numbers that summarize the situation at hand:
- There are 300,000 fewer teachers in the United States than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
- There are currently more than 2000 teacher vacancies in Tennessee alone.
- At the beginning of 2022, 44% of public schools reported full-time or part-time teaching vacancies, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
- The education workforce experienced a nearly 3% drop.
A lack of teachers in Tennessee is putting students at great risk. The impact on students with a growing deficiency of teachers, who are role models and mentors, is dire. Tackling the nationwide teacher crisis is vital to our students’ academic achievements and their future.
What challenges are teachers facing?
The pandemic created unprecedented challenges for teachers and directly contributed to the decline of teacher employment. Teachers had to adjust to online virtual learning and were forced to develop new and unique teaching methods. Many teachers have been deprived of the ability to assist individual students and give them the encouragement needed for success.
The challenges teachers faced with new teaching methods, lack of classroom interaction with their students, and health concerns of the pandemic resulted in many teachers not returning to the classroom and leaving the teaching profession altogether. In addition, the wearing of teachers is due partly to teacher burnout as teaching, while extremely rewarding for most, can be very demanding without comparable compensation – especially with the tremendous impact that teachers have on students’ academic success. Additionally, the costly demands to enter the teaching profession can often steer people away.
What can we do to confront the teacher shortage?
How can we increase the number of people pursuing a teaching career? One obstacle to focus on is teacher appreciation. Many teachers who left the profession did not feel appreciated. Another remedy for teacher burnout could be provided through counseling services, surveys to address teachers’ needs, and other investments in strategies to support teachers’ mental health.
The big elephant in the room is the monetary aspect of the teaching profession – how do we increase compensation and reduce the costs of obtaining a teaching degree? Tennesseans could do their part by enacting legislation that focuses on creating programs to provide the necessary financial relief to aid aspiring teachers.
The state could also consider providing supplemental funding for school districts explicitly dedicated to teacher compensation. In addition, Tennessee’s lenders (banks and credit unions) can implement low-cost loan programs to assist teachers in funding their college education, making their debt payments more affordable upon entering the teaching profession.
ELFI Tennessee Loan Program (TNLP)
Due to this need impacting our community, Education Loan Finance (ELFI) has developed one of these low-cost programs to assist teachers in funding their education. The ELFI Tennessee Loan Program (TNLP) is designed to provide low-interest private loans to students in undergraduate and graduate programs in teacher education. Students must be accepted into the teacher education program at an eligible institution. Learn more on ELFI’s Tennessee Loan Program for Teachers.
Confronting the teacher shortage crisis is critical as teacher vacancies increase across Tennessee. This year, more teachers have quit, and fewer fresh teachers are available to take their place. Ultimately, eliminating the shortage entails turning teaching into a more respected, desirable, compensated, and attainable profession.