Pine Belt educators speak on state’s teacher shortage

The governor’s education task force addresses the teaching shortage across the Magnolia State
Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 10:22 PM CDT
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Teachers train America’s future by touching the young minds of today, and they are in high demand.

Recently the governor’s task force released a report, making demands on behalf of educators in Mississippi.

“It’s so important to have really, really, really highly trained individuals teaching our children,” says Oak Grove Middle School Lead Teacher Sara Stygles.

Stygles is a member of the Gov. Tate Reeves’ Education Human Captial Task Force. She says teachers are in high demand, and it has a lot to do with a lack of support and resources.

Sygles says, they’ve spent a lot of time, creating ways to increase the number of teachers and reduce the percentage of people who leave the profession.

“One is pathways to licensure, you know pathways through, school and put in for licensure. So we’ve talked a little bit about that. We also have worked on a way to completely revamp and restructure the licensure system the teacher licensure system in Mississippi. We’ve worked on different pay scale that kind of fits with the new licensure system”

She says this is necessary because it can be an unliveable wage for the majority of teachers, they often have to find second jobs just to make ends meet.

“We need it to be a career that you can afford to support your family, so that you don’t have to make a decision on, you know, leaving the profession so that you can find something else that pays better,” Stygles says.

Dr. Ben Burnett is the Dean of Education at William Carey University and is also a part of the task force. He believes teacher pay is something that needs to be handled in order to fix the issue of the shortage.

“The biggest indicator out of the report would be teacher pay and tackling that as it ties to the teacher shortage because research shows that very few teachers get out of the profession because of pay, but it is the number one factor that keeps people from going into the profession,” Burnett says.

Burnett says there is a huge weight on the shoulders of our educators and school boards.

“...then throw in a pandemic, and teachers are now expected to teach, you know, students that are virtual and students that are in the classroom all at the same time,” says Burnett. “We’re asking them to be superhuman.”

Burnett believes teachers should be treated with respect simply because they touch the minds of society’s greatest.

“Every doctor had a science teacher and a math teacher that helped them get to where they are now. So, education and teachers are just the foundation of any career,” Burnett says.

According to Burnett, in the Southern states, 45% of teachers leave the profession after the first five years.

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