Educators discuss ways to overcome statewide teacher shortage

A teacher shortage in the West Delaware Community School District, and across the state, is putting stress on school staff.
Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 11:24 AM CST
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MANCHESTER, Iowa (KCRG) - A roundtable discussion in Manchester on Saturday discussed the teacher shortage in the West Delaware Community School District and across the state.

Teachers gave Iowa lawmakers ideas on how to fill some vacant positions, an issue that was made worse by the pandemic.

“There was a teacher shortage and issues with the teacher pipeline before COVID-19,” Iowa state Sen. Liz Mathis (D-Linn County) said. “COVID-19 only heightened the issue.”

Mathis and other lawmakers spoke with educators at West Delaware on Saturday morning to learn more about a current teacher shortage plaguing Iowa schools.

“We’ve been making it work, but it has been highly stressful to our teaching staff,” Dr. Kristen Rickey, West Delaware Community School District superintendent, said.

Rickey said they would usually get 50 to 60 applications for certain positions, but that had dropped to only a handful. That’s forcing teachers to fill in the gaps where needed.

“We weren’t able to hire an ag teacher,” Rickey said. “Luckily, our principal used to be a former ag teacher, so he has been teaching the class. Obviously, having our principal teaching a class isn’t ideal, but we can provide the class for our students.”

Rickey said that teachers having to juggle multiple positions has led to burnout. It takes time from other work that needs to be done, and some students have noticed.

“It’s hard for us to get our work done or ask questions because substitute teachers don’t know what’s happening,” Alexis Harbach, a West Delaware student, said. “During my English III class, our teacher was gone. I get it; sometimes it happens suddenly, but we had six people bop into our class.”

The teacher shortage is a statewide issue. Union members said there was a need to increase pay, work on collective bargaining, housing needs, and incentives for people to want to teach in Iowa.

“They feel burnt out,” Kevin McDermott, with the Iowa State Education Association, said. “I have said this for years, teachers make it work. Lack of resources, they will get it done. This is the first time that they’ve said ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”

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