WXMI — Teacher shortages were already an issue in Michigan pre-pandemic, but exhaust from a year of coronavirus and virtual learning have skyrocketed educator retirements, exacerbating an already overwhelming problem for public, private and charter schools.
“Not just for teachers but for educators in general,” said Tina Kerr, executive director of the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators. “We have a staffing shortage with para-pros, bus drivers, administrators. The pandemic just exacerbated it; we already had a critical issue in the state.”
According to ChalkBeat, Michigan teacher retirements between this past August and February increased 44% compared to the same time period in 2019-2020. It represents just shy of 800 educators.
“Our teachers, our educators, have been put under a lot of pressure,” said Kerr. “It’s been very hard for teachers to find the silver lining of why they do this, and to be honest compensation is an issue.”
Now, districts are trying to get creative about hiring, but also about developing homegrown talent with their own students.
The Grand Rapids Public School’s Academy of Teaching and Learning offers qualified students tuition to Ferris State’s College of Education, then a job in the GRPS system after graduation.
More recently, the state launched the Proud Michigan Educator program, aiding in tuition and job opportunities for education students. GRPS was one of 44 grant recipients through the program.
“There needs to be a two-way street between the colleges of education and our high school, and what we can do to really cultivate the interest amongst students in the teaching profession,” said John Helmholdt, spokesman for the GRPS district. “The concept behind it is that pipeline. We’re going to grow them, we’re going to feed them to you, then you feed them right back so we can get high-quality, talented teachers in the classroom.”
The U.S. Department of Education tracks teacher retirements by state and by district. You can check your district’s retirements here.