By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
Step right up, folks, and become a teacher.
A carnival of eager school district recruiters enticed potential teachers to take a peek at what they could offer to the lines of career-seeking individuals who passed by their table during a Teacher Career Fair at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor last week.
Splendora ISD, a small district outside of Houston, lured prospective teachers in the old-fashioned way costuming.
John Thomas, Splendoras assistant superintendent for instruction, wore a green frog hat during the fair. At the very least, people would remember the districts name.
Eartha Bason, KISDs director for employee relations, said they travel all over the country to recruit teachers.
The sign on her table reads KISD hires over 400 teachers a year, which Bason attributes to the districts high turnover rate and increased growth.
Health benefits and a comparable salary are part of what Bason pitches to the future educators, but more importantly, weve got jobs.
And so do many districts across Texas.
The teacher shortage has been a constant part of the education system for several years. But Marlene Zipperlen, dean of the college of education at UMHB, said it is not obvious from the number of teachers out there.
Zipperlen, a former superintendent, said many teachers decide not to return to the classroom whether its because of the pressure of high-stakes testing, the dwindling respect for the profession or the salaries. The Baby Boomer generation of teachers is also reaching or have already entered retirement, she said.
According to the Texas A&M University Systems Teacher Demand Study 2002-2003, as of September 2002, Texas school districts hired about 39,000 teachers for the 2002-03 school year. Over 80 percent of teachers hired filled replacement positions and less than 20 percent of teachers hired filled new positions.
Dwain Dawson, a teacher recruiter consultant for the Region 10 Education Service Center, said they are in need of about 6,000 teachers, mainly due to growth. Region 10 represents more than 82 school districts in Dallas, Collin, Grayson, Fannin, Hunt, Rockwall, Kaufman and Ellis county.
Were growing so fast, Dawson said. When you have a district building three or four schools, you need people to fill those schools.
KISD is also looking at new growth from the 5,000 troops expected to be stationed at Fort Hood in the next year. The addition could put the district in need of about 70 more teachers.
The demand has allowed new certification and recruiting programs to emerge.
Alternative certification allows prospective teachers to begin education course work in the summer and start teaching in the fall while continuing courses throughout that year.
KISD utilizes programs like Troops to Teachers, which helps retiring military personnel transition into teaching careers, to meet some of their teacher needs.
Other programs, like the Community College Teaching Scholars Program, part of a partnership between Central Texas College and Tarleton-Central Texas, helps recruit and prepare future teachers and encourage students to pursue their career goals.
The program involves recruiting high school and community college students to enter the field of education and providing support for prospective teachers and monetary incentives for those who devote their career to high-needs certification areas like math, sciences and special education.
Jennifer Metzler, an education major at UMHB, is finishing her senior year student teaching at Southwest Elementary in Belton.
Metzler said she is prepared for the career she has chosen and doesnt think shell be leaving the field anytime soon.
So many people go into it thinking its an easy degree and its not time-consuming, she said. Its a very stressful job.
Metzler said she felt there were many good area districts represented at the job fairs.
For some future teachers, location and salary are important to deciding on a job. For her, it is classroom size and the schools support system.
Metzlers degree is in a generalized field Early Childhood through fourth grade which she said makes the process a little more competitive.
The education field is very competitive, but there are many options available, she said.
Education reporter Wendy Gragg contributed to this story.
Contact Sarah Chacko at email@example.com