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What's driving the teacher shortage, and what's being done to keep them?

Some Central Georgia school systems are offering solutions, like pay incentives.

MACON, Ga. — It’s National Teacher Day and we’re celebrating teachers in Central Georgia! We applaud those who give their all to education, but many Georgia teachers are leaving the classroom for other opportunities.

The forces driving teachers out of the industry are the same as in many industries, like more competitive pay, work from home, and job stress.

So, what are some solutions to keep them at the head of the class? Let’s take a closer look…

LaTanya Clark, the Bibb County School District’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, started teaching in the district in 2016. As a former radiology technician, she is no stranger to helping others, but Clark says she followed a gut feeling.

“I was making good money as a radiology tech. I felt like [I] was needed somewhere else. I felt my passion was being pulled to the community. There was a greater need for the students, and I was so happy when I saw a teaching position available at my alma mater,” said Clark.

While teaching is fueling Clark’s spirit, it is burning out others. Some retire early because they can’t take it anymore.

Verdaillia Turner is a Georgia native and the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Georgia. As a former teacher herself, she understands the challenges of the classroom.

“This shortage is severe all over the country, and has hit home in Georgia,” said Turner.

She says the pandemic made the teacher shortage worse because as some leave or flat out retire, others realize they can make more money elsewhere. Teachers also want more parent involvement, as well as respect from students and administrators.

“Administrators don't understand what they do, are detached from classrooms, continuously put extra paperwork burdens, extra meetings on them,” said Turner.

Some Central Georgia school systems are offering solutions, like pay incentives. Tina Thames, the communications director for Twiggs County Public Schools, says they started the ‘interns as teachers’ program this year.

“We partner them with a master teacher, we pay them a salary, and give them credit toward their years in the school system. We are hoping it will be a great program,” said Thames.

They want teachers like Clark to stay motivated, so she stays in the classroom.

“You have to be passionate. You want to be in it for the kids. You have to remember the students need us,” said Clark.

Twiggs County has eight teacher openings, while Macon-Bibb has 60 vacancies across their 38 schools.

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