As most of the nation deals with a teacher shortage, Lander University held one of its largest teacher recruitment fairs in recent years.
Representatives from 55 school districts in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia came to Lander to “look for teachers who will come and grow with their districts,” said Dr. Sasha Hunt-Barron, dean of Lander’s College of Education.
South Carolina’s teacher shortage is felt statewide. The 2022 – 23 school year in the Palmetto State began with 1,474 open teacher positions – up from 1,063 open positions the previous year, according to a study by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention & Advancement.
“School districts are offering great financial incentives for education graduates. Others are offering to pay for their teachers’ graduate school programs,” she said.
To attract more teachers, the Charleston County School District, for example, is offering December graduates in education a “$3,000 jump start” bonus to begin teaching in January, said Sean Connor a teacher recruiter for the school district. “If they complete the school year, they will receive an additional $5,000 bonus, which our other teachers are getting.”
In other words, a new graduate who works in the Charleston County School District for one semester will receive $8,000, in addition to their income, Connor said. “Right now, we are looking for people to fill our ‘overflow classroom positions’ to reduce the class size in some of our schools.”
To ensure that the district retains its teachers, Connor said new teachers are paired with a teacher mentor to help them answer “the million and one questions that they are going to have.” The district’s Office of Teacher Effectiveness comprises former principals, teachers of the year and instructional staff, among other personnel, to support beginning and experienced teachers and principals.
“There is a tremendous level of support for our first-year teachers,” he said. “We want them to succeed in their careers.”
Aliyah Anderson, of Andrews, talked to the Charleston recruiters about her future. She plans to graduate in May with an Interdisciplinary Studies degree, with a special education emphasis. “I love being around children and teaching children,” she said. “I want to have an impact on their lives.”
Having a niece with autism helped her understand the important role that special education teachers have. “She made me realize we need more teachers to help these children,” she said.
Dr. Steve Glenn, Greenwood School District 50 superintendent, said Lander’s recruitment fair is important because “this is our home, and we want the best teachers for our schools. We can’t let these graduates out of Greenwood.”
Glenn cited a long-standing relationship between Greenwood School District 50 and Lander for educating teachers who will educate the community’s students. “Teachers are crucial to our success. The magic happens when they close the doors and begin teaching. We find that Lander’s education graduates are well-prepared for the classroom.”
Greenwood District 50 began the school year with a new-hire bonus of $2,500. A program between the district and Lander allows teachers to earn their master’s degrees free of charge. “This is a tremendous incentive for many,” said Chad Evans, director of evaluation for District 50.
Hunter Allen, of Lancaster, is a senior who will graduate in December. An internship with District 50 has placed her in the fourth grade at Pinecrest Elementary School. “I’ll be employed with District 50 until June,” Allen said. “This has been a really good learning opportunity. I’ve had a good support system, and the internship is helping prepare me for what’s next.”
Physical education majors Walt Womble, of Laurens, and Paxton Yon, of Augusta, Georgia, will graduate in May. Womble, whose mother has been a teacher for 28 years, said he is looking for a job in a school “with a great feeling of family … and a supportive administration.”
He hopes to land a job at Lexington County School District One. He cited the growth of the community and emphasis on quality education as important factors in his decision. “They have an active community and a reputation of excellence.”
Paxton, who transferred to Lander in 2022, said he would welcome the opportunity to work in a small school where he could make a difference in the lives of students. He was drawn to Lander because meetings with faculty members made him feel welcome and at home. “Lander has a great student-teacher ratio,” he said. “I would like that in a school where I am teaching.”
Dale-Ann High, director of beginning teacher support and recruitment for the Richmond County School District in North Carolina, said she believes her district’s location is a “plus” for beginning teachers.
“We are a small, rural community, and we are looking for teachers who want to contribute to the community,” she said, citing that the area is about 90 minutes away from Charlotte and Raleigh and an easy drive to the state’s beaches.
“We have a strong beginning teacher support program,” she said, “and that is attractive to many new graduates.”
For Hunt-Barron, “now is an amazing time to be graduating as a teacher.”
Lander graduates often have their pick of available teaching positions, and the number of successful graduates underscores this.
In the 2022-23 academic year, Lander had about 90 undergraduate students earn their degrees. All of them had jobs upon graduation, she said.
This year, the number is projected to be 95 students earning their bachelor’s degrees. “Teaching has so many rewards. Working with children and young people every day is an adventure, and every day you get to make a difference in the world.