West Columbia, SC (WLTX) South Carolina is one of the states fighting a teacher shortage and with the growth of schools, the situation is projected to get worse.
National Center for Education Statistics show the enrollment in South Carolina schools will increase by 3% by 2025. but a non-profit is offering a faster, more economical way to get good people into the classroom.
Potential educators met at the Cayce-West Columbia Library to learn the ABC's of what it could take to become a teacher and help fulfill the shortage in South Carolina. Kerri Martin is a teacher who hosted the event for the American Board, a national nonprofit created by the U.S. Department Education in 2001 when the Baby Boomers retired and left thousands of vacancies creating a shortage that many states, including South Carolina still face. The Palmetto State approved the program in 2007.
Martin says, "The beauty of the program is that the requirements to participate are that you have a bachelors degree, you pass a SLED background check and you have that interest to become a teacher in the state of South Carolina."
More than 6,000 people have become teachers through the program in the six different areas they provide (Biology, Chemistry, English, General Science, Math, and Physics). Angela Sharperson is hoping to become one of them. She says, "When I saw the opportunity on WLTX this morning, I said oh my God let me go check it out."
Sharperson has spent more than 25 years working in the banking and collection sectors. Now she wants to use her experience to follow her passion and make a difference. She tells News 19, "Math has always been one of my strong points. That was something that I saw was one of the major subjects so I was excited about that, I was like, 'oh yea.'"
The program provides a faster cheaper route for people to become teachers. With coupons it costs anywhere from $1,900 to $2,200 dollars compared to almost $25,000 for another degree. That could be a savings of around $22,000. Martin says, "The price tag that is associated with the program is a huge selling point, along with the idea that it is self paced, and it is online." The program prepares you for the subject area exam and the Professional Teaching Knowledge (PTK) exam. The price also includes the cost of taking the tests.
News 19 reached out to the office of Molly Spearman, and the South Carolina Department of Education. Chief Communications officer Ryan Brown told us in an email, "As a state, we are looking very closely at teacher preparation and ways we can encourage more young people into the profession and alternative certification routes such as this are a viable option."
Sharperson says she's always thought she should have been a teacher from the beginning so for her, it's fulfilling a dream. She says, "I've always had that urge to want to help children, just to improve and be better and just realize their potential, and just know there are great things out there for everybody, and just being able to work hard to achieve it."
News 19 reached out to all the school districts in the Midlands to see what shortages they are facing. Here are the responses we have received so far.
Saluda County says they currently have no shortage
Clarendon county schools tell us they have a shortage and they have participated in job fairs to fill them, but didn't fill all certified spots until January. For the 2017-2018 school year they will need teachers in the following areas: early childhood education, elementary education, high school math, elementary physical education, special education-self contained, and robotics.
Mary Beth Hill, Chief Communications Officer for Lexington School District One tells us, "Although we do not have any open positions this year, we anticipate that it will be much more difficult to fill positions caused by retirements, etc. next year. For that reason, we held our teacher recruitment fairs earlier this year than in past years and are working hard to recruit good teachers now, for next year." For the 2017-2018 school year the district will need teachers in the following areas: special education, secondary level English, science, mathematics
Mary Anne Byrd with Kershaw County School District tells us, "The concerns about the teacher shortage are real, particularly for math, science and special education positions. We have had our recruitment fair already this year and advertise it via our routine methods as well as by posting a billboard on the Interstate or in a heavily trafficked area in Columbia. We also attend recruitment fairs in Northern states with excess teachers like Pennsylvania. We will be participating in CERRA's recruitment fair in May."
If you are interested in changing careers the American Board has an online chat that can answer your questions. Just go to AmericanBoard.org for more information.