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South Carolina battles teacher shortage

Districts across Midlands are listing dozens of jobs but are struggling to fill them, as teachers continue to leave the industry or move outside the state.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — As the 2020 school year wraps up, Midlands school districts are beginning to look for staff for the new school year.

Districts across Midlands are listing dozens of jobs but are struggling to fill them, as teachers continue to leave the industry or move outside the state. 

To help combat the issue, local colleges are creating new programs to encourage graduates to teach in the Palmetto State.

Holli Demby is one of those graduates. She says both her parents are teachers. 

"From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher," Demby says. "I grew up in South Carolina. South Carolina is where I had some amazing teachers that inspired me to become a teacher. Ultimately, this is where I wanted to leave a legacy ... with South Carolina students, as well."

A first year teacher teaching first grade at H. E. Corley Elementary, Demby says it hasn't been easy. "Teaching is a difficult profession. It's harder than I expected coming out of school."

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This year, 300 new teachers graduated from the University of South Carolina. In 2019-20, 82% of graduates went on to be employed in South Carolina public schools, according to USC. In 2018-19, 70% went on to be employed in South Carolina public schools and in 2017-18, 80%. 

The numbers only represent teachers employed in the state's public schools. It doesn't include employees in private schools or those who left the state. Still, there's dozens of teaching jobs currently vacant across the Midlands.

Tracy West, Dean of the teaching Division at Columbia College, says more needs to be done to keep teachers within the profession. She says 29 of this year's 32 graduates are now employed with public schools in South Carolina.

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"It's a challenging place to work. These young people are career changers that are making the decision to go into the classrooms and educate our students that will be the future leaders of tomorrow," says West.

USC Associate Department Chair of Instruction and Teacher Education Dr. Angela Baum says teacher shortages are driven by early departure from the classroom. To help stop this they've implemented mentoring programs for new graduates.  

"Our newest program is called the Carolina Collaborative for Alternative preparation," Baum says. "We call it Carolina CAP and itss a non-degree program but it leads to full licensure in the state of South Carolina." 

To apply for a position with a school district, head to their website and click on the "Human Resources" tab.

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