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Kern Superintendent of Schools hopes new website will help prospective teachers find the perfect job

Posted at 6:00 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 00:34:56-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — When you drop your kids off at school, you hope for them to have the best, most experienced teacher possible. The goal of a new initiative in California and Kern County is to get and keep those teachers in the classroom.

Districts across the nation are struggling to recruit and retain public school teachers, and Kern County is no exception. In response to the need for teachers, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools has launched a teacher recruitment website.

Think of the website as a eHarmony or Match .com for teachers instead of for dating. Instead of finding the perfect partner, they hope it will find the perfect school, program, or mentor for prospective teachers.

The idea is to have all the resources those who want to become teachers need in one place so they don’t go looking for opportunities elsewhere, and Kern County is seeing an increase in people entering these programs at the high school and college levels.

Recruiting new staff takes time, and the district still has to make up for jobs that have been sitting vacant for decades, as the shortage actually started back when many teachers were laid off or chose to retire early during the 2008 recession.

Tania Schalburg Dykes, Coordinator with the Teacher Development Program for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, says this generation of teachers is facing a similar challenge.

“We are slowly making a difference, but as long as those Baby Boomers keep retiring, we are going to have those holes, those gaps to fill,” said Schalburg Dykes.

According to Schalburg Dykes, the areas with the highest need for teachers are special education and single-subject math and science, but she says there are also shortages in the arts and in multi-subject teachers.

The district hopes the website will get people who are thinking about becoming teachers to fully commit.

“(The website is) designed to educate prospective teachers on the vast benefits of teaching and also to help guide them through the steps they need to take to become a credentialed teacher,” said Schalburg Dykes.

According to Marvin Lopez, Program Coordinator for the California Center of Teaching Careers, the website is meant to work like a database for both the schools and the prospective teachers.

“For school districts, it allows them to increase the candidate pool that they can speak with or meet with,” said Lopez.

Lopez is overseeing this initiative, which is part of a larger, statewide campaign spearheaded by the California Center on Teaching Careers in Tulare County. The center says enrollment in teacher prep programs dropped by more than 70 percent in the past decade, often due to the stress of the job.

According to EdSource.org, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System projected about 16,000 teachers will retire by the end of 2022. That would be the largest number since 2009 to 2010 and represents approximately 5 percent of the 320,000 teachers in the state.

The state retirement system also said that the average age of teachers who retired from 2019 to 2020 was 63 and that they had been teaching for an average of just over 24 years.

Additionally, the California Center on Teaching Careers points to a study conducted with 170 teachers that showed over a third of them met the threshold for depression or anxiety, and 1 in 5 showed symptoms of PTSD.

Kern County is trying to combat this with a collaborative approach.

“They have on-site mentors,” said Schalburg Dykes, speaking about Kern County schools. “They have academic mentors and strong networks in the community that meet with the teachers to support them emotionally.”

She added that the district works with more than 40 other school districts in the country to help identify which teachers may need extra help.

However, it is important to remember that the county is seeing an increased interest in teaching.

“More and more candidates are coming into teacher prep. the same number of teachers are retiring. Enrollment is keeping steady now,” said Schalburg Dykes. “I think we are going to be able to fill in the gap. We are all taking a big breath.”

The district is also hoping to grow their workforce in Kern County by tapping into local high schools to get students on a teaching path, and then continuing to develop those prospective teachers through programs at Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield.