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Schools get creative to fill classrooms | News, Sports, Jobs

Courtesy photo Mason VanPamel, a kindergarten teacher at Hillman Elementary School, appears with his students during Spirit Week in their pajamas in this undated photo provided by Hillman Community Schools.

ALPENA – As industries nationwide feel the pinch of an employee shortage, schools must work harder than usual to ensure classrooms are staffed as the new school year is approaching.

As of Friday, Alpena public school administrators must hire 19 teachers before school starts next month, including filling six hard-to-fill special education positions.

With fewer candidates clamoring to fill their vacancies than in the past, local school districts have turned to recruiting bonuses, non-traditional paths to certification, and additional benefits for current staff to keep qualified teachers ahead of the competition. students.

If all else fails, Alpena students may have to learn from home if schools cannot fully staff classrooms.

A presentation at Alpena today could connect schools with people who will be standing outside classrooms next month, teaching while learning to teach, said Justin Gluesing, superintendent of the Alpena-Montmorency Educational Services District. Alcona.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Samantha Wilson, Alpena Public Schools Executive Director of Human Resources, explains online hiring information for APS at the district’s central office Friday.

Area residents who never considered becoming teachers could help Alpena-area school districts retain classroom staff and in-person learning, Gluesing said.

“Even if you look far,” he said, “often the best candidates are right in front of you.”

Gluesing recently returned to Alpena, three years after leaving an administrative position at Alpena Public Schools to become Superintendent of the Crawford AuSable School District.

In the five years before he left APS, the pool of applicants for teaching positions had dwindled considerably. Where once administrators had to whittle down a pile of resumes to make interviews manageable, in 2019 schools were getting incredibly few applications, Gluesing said.

Schools have always expected some turnover at the end of the school years, but crops of college graduates and teachers transferred from other districts have generally filled open slots in the fall.

“It was never something you had to worry about,” Gluesing said. “You thought everything would be fine.”

Now recruiting staff has become a year-round job, he said.

With fewer young people entering college teacher training programs to replace teachers leaving the field, schools in recent years have had to ask teachers to announce impending retirements earlier.

A depleted pool of potential staff means schools have had to get creative in attracting and retaining teachers.

In a one-hour presentation at the AMA ESD Central Office today, Gluesing will explain a move recently adopted by school districts to bring those without teaching licenses in front of students at the same time they complete education required to obtain this license.

Many people don’t have the money or the time to leave the workforce to go back to school, Gluesing said.

Once skeptical of applicants who did not follow the traditional path to licensing, school districts concerned about filling teaching positions have learned to see teacher potential in unlicensed members. of their community, he said.

Someone with a background in chemistry might be a natural candidate for a science class, an engineering background for a math class, or an archeology degree for a social studies class.

Before returning to Alpena, Gluesing helped his former school district harness the talent of an artist who retired to Grayling after working in Hollywood, doing makeovers for films such as “Avengers: Infinity War.”

This person now teaches comic drawing and other art forms to elementary school students.

“They eat it,” Gluesing said. “The neighborhood is better off. And we do well for the children.

Schools need to help people entering schools from another profession learn how to manage a classroom and break down their body of knowledge at a beginner level – skills that people may have innately without realizing it. realize, Gluesing said.

To get the attention of potential candidates, schools must actively seek out people who might fit the job, but never think about it unless someone suggests it, he said.

At gatherings or around town, Gluesing seeks out people with the qualities schools seek and encourages them to consider teaching.

“You don’t know who might be out there, just talent waiting,” he said.

Attracting already licensed teachers from outside the region, when they could go anywhere and be hired, means selling Alpena’s attractiveness as a place to live, work and play, said Gluesing.

Online advertisements for APS positions tout easy traffic, plenty of recreational facilities and “waking up where you vacation” to entice downstate teachers to consider moving North.

As of last week, APS needed to fill 17 full-time and two part-time teaching positions.

The district expects many of them to be filled after a job fair last week, according to Samantha Wilson, executive director of human resources for APS.

The district held five such fairs in 2022 in an attempt to fill a wide range of part-time and full-time openings for teachers and other staff.

Last week’s fair drew 32 applicants for multiple positions, and the district intends to expand job openings for many of them, Wilson said.

The district most needs six special education teachers — three high school and three high school — and is struggling to find people interested in those positions.

The district hopes a $5,000 recruiting bonus attached to special education positions will help attract applicants.

In Onaway, a $3,750 hiring bonus — 10% of a new teacher’s base salary — offered as an incentive didn’t generate enough interest for the district to hire a 3rd-grade teacher, Mindy said. Horn, Superintendent of the Onaway Area Community School District.

APS prefers teachers who are already certified, but will consider candidates interested in teaching on an interim basis while pursuing their teaching degree, Wilson said.

If it can’t outfit the entire school by the start of the school year, APS will consider virtual learning for some of its classrooms, but only as a last resort, Wilson said.

The district knows more teacher retirements are coming in the 2022-23 school year, but it’s “cautiously optimistic” that students won’t suffer, Wilson said.

In Hillman, a recent grant providing intervention assistance turned into full-time hires as two Americorp workers accepted full-time teaching positions for the upcoming school year, Pamela said. Rader, acting superintendent of Hillman Community Schools.

No teachers left the district last year, she said.

To support and try to keep current staff, Hillman District has since last year offered a $2,000 stipend to teachers who add a certification that benefits the district, such as a special education certificate or an administration degree.

In an effort to keep current staff at Alpena schools, the APS Board of Trustees recently voted to increase benefits for teachers and other school staff positions.

Teaching is hard work, Rader said, and teachers need to feel supported and appreciated for wanting to continue to do so — and it’s up to districts to provide that supportive environment, for the benefit of their students.

“We’re together,” Rader said. “As long as we continue to put students first, we will be good.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.

IF YOU ARE GOING TO

WHAT: Information session for those interested in an alternative route to Michigan teacher certification

WHEN: 6 p.m. today

WHERE: Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District Central Office, 2118 US-23 South, Alpena

HOW MUCH: Free

INFO: No pre-registration required. The Alternative Path to Teacher Certification is a non-traditional preparation program designed for individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree who plan to complete an accelerated teacher preparation program while working as a teacher toward a certificate. provisional education.


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