Even with state teacher incentives, a new alternative route to licensure and new hiring bonuses, all aimed at recruiting, Washoe County School District still needs more teachers.
“We’re still actively recruiting for 48 teaching positions,” said Emily Ellison, the district’s director of talent acquisition & development. “This year we’ll end up hiring a total of 350 to 400 teachers. We need kindergarten teachers because of going to full time.”
Many new teachers are homegrown.
The University of Nevada School of Education has seen no decline in enrollment. “We graduate about 150 students a year ready to get licensed and go directly into classrooms,” said UNR Dean of Education Kenneth Coll. “Our enrollment has remained steady…We haven’t seen the decline in education students that other states have.”
He added: “Our students are half-way through college with 60 credits before they can commit to teaching, and then they go through a thorough screening and selection process. Our challenge is to produce motivated, committed teachers… I think that’s why our retention rate is so high.”
UNR and the school district work together to focus on specific shortages of teaching expertise.
“I’d say that 90 percent plus of our grads stay in Nevada, and at least half get jobs in Washoe County,” Coll said. “The others return to the rural counties or Las Vegas.”
Ellison noted that the Washoe school district normally replaces 350 teachers a year because they retire or just leave the district.
“That may sound like a lot, but that’s out of 4,000 certified teachers,” she said.
A new program, an alternative route to licensure, allows people who already have a bachelor’s degree in other fields to become full-time teachers with full benefits while they do online coursework to become licensed teachers.
And the last Legislature passed a bill to provide up to $3,000 per semester for students seeking teaching degrees. A quarter of that scholarship will be withheld until the student graduates and teaches in Nevada for five years.
Additional legislation provided $10 million to be split among the state’s school districts to be given to teachers as hiring bonuses. The teachers, however, must take jobs in high-poverty or low-performing schools.
“We didn’t actively promote the alternative licensing program or the hiring bonuses this year,” Ellison said. “We currently have 15 teachers in the program, and we’ll continue to monitor it and make sure both the students and teachers benefit.”
“Then, next year we’ll leverage both in the recruiting process.”
Until the additional 48 teachers are hired, Ellison feels the students are in good hands. “We have 60 long-term substitutes working, and we’re lucky to have some retirees subbing for us. All our classes are well covered.”