LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) Colleges are warning a teacher shortage is on the horizon because fewer university students are seeking education degrees.
At the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, 648 students are enrolled in education programs this year. It’s almost a third less than just three years ago.
Educators say the demand for certified teachers at K-12 campuses across Acadiana can’t be filled right now. It’s an issue that’s grown for years, but COVID-19 escalated it.
“The pipeline for future teachers is in crisis right now,” explained Dr. Nathan Roberts, the dean of UL Lafayette’s College of Education. He admits the university isn’t graduating nearly enough teachers to fill the needs of the Acadiana area.
“Teachers now are retiring at a faster and faster rate because of all the circumstances, and this year is going to be a tremendous time for possible retirements and folks saying this is too much for me to stay in the teaching profession,” Roberts said.
The trend is a national one with hundreds of thousands of teacher positions unfilled due to increased paperwork, rigid curriculum, a loss of respect, low pay, and most recently coronavirus.
Morgan Mercado and Taylor Wallace are both 4th-grade teachers at Woodvale Elementary. Mercado said, “It’s surprising to us because we love education so much, and we don’t understand why more people wouldn’t want to come in this field.”
Mercado and Wallace are entering their fifth year teaching elementary students. Both graduated from UL and were awed that the number of education students dropped by an average of 11% in the past three years.
“It is surprising,” Mercado admitted. “I did not realize it is that bad,” expressed Wallace.
The students who are answering the call are cautious but encouraging expressed Roberts, “We’re finding quite a few of those are interested in helping others and where they can have the biggest impact.”
That same desire to be an impact is what’s keeping veteran teachers in the classroom no matter what.
“We have a big power in the world, and I think a lot of people don’t see it until they’re inside of it,” encouraged Wallace. “Wait until you see your students’ faces. It’s going to all be worth it.”
The twin sisters give a look into their adventures dubbed Double Duty Teachers here.
Dean Roberts said the support of the community goes a long way in reversing the numbers. He encouraged supporting your teachers so they don’t pay out of pocket for the tools of success and discouraged pointing potential students away from the field.
The demand for teachers has gotten so high that the University of Lafayette will have as many as seven states come to their teacher fairs, and the number of students interviewing can’t even match the number of schools looking to hire according to Roberts.