Originally created 08/15/04

Teacher shortage lingers



AIKEN - Faith Barber didn't realize how many hours of behind-the-scenes work went into preparing a classroom for the first day of school until she did it.

On Wednesday morning, Ms. Barber taught her first English class of 10th- and 11th-grade students at South Aiken High School and learned some things that can't be taught from a textbook.

"I never realized how important that first day of school was," said Ms. Barber, 22, of Aiken. "Being a young teacher, only a few years older than some of the students, you really have to establish your authority on that first day."

Though many of the teachers hired in local counties took paths similar to Ms. Barber's, heading straight from high school to college to teaching, South Carolina has tried other methods of bringing in teachers who have experience in other professions. Although most teaching positions in local counties were filled, South Carolina and other Southeastern states are still in a teacher shortage, part of a nationwide trend during the past four years, according to a study by the American Association for Employment in Education.

The teaching shortage is higher in the Southeast, especially in the areas of special education and physics, and is more pronounced in rural areas, said BJ Bryant, the executive director of the American Association for Employment in Education.

"If a person didn't grow up in that area, they probably aren't going to teach there," Ms. Bryant said. "It's hard to lure a new teacher there."

Betty Jo Hall, the director of human resources for McCormick County schools, said they have a challenge finding new teachers in the areas of chemistry, physics, math and foreign language - subjects that require training that isn't offered at all colleges and universities with education programs.

Because McCormick County is a rural area, she said, more than half of the teachers must drive 30 miles or more to get to school every day.

In rural Edgefield County, finding and retaining teachers at the county's four schools is a challenge.

"It's hard to fill teaching positions of any kind," said Angela Cooper, the human resources director for Edgefield County schools. "There are even fewer minority teachers, and the ratios are dwindling."

Of the 23 teachers hired in different positions in Edgefield County this year, five came through the Program of Alternative Certification for Educators - a South Carolina program designed to bring experts in the fields of science to use their expertise in the classroom through a certification program.

To help prevent a teacher shortage in the future, the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement in South Carolina designed the Teacher Cadet Program, which gives high school students a taste of the education profession. In the program, students spend several weeks observing teachers in classrooms and learn what goes into planning a lesson while earning college credit through schools such as USC Aiken.

"It really is the perfect fit for a student who has thought about a career in education," said Sherry Snipes, who works with the teacher cadet students at South Aiken High. "It gives an overview of what it's like to teach."

You're Hired

The number of new teachers hired for the 2004-05 school year:

Allendale County: 41

Edgefield County: 23

Aiken County: 147

Barnwell 19: 5

Barnwell 29: 15

Barnwell 45: 18

McCormick County: 13

Source: County and district school officials

Reach Karen Ethridge at (803) 648-1395, ext. 109, or karen.ethridge@augustachronicle.com.