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Head of PA school administrators' organization says teacher shortages can be fixed, but will take time

Empty desks are arranged in a classroom at an elementary school in Nesquehoning, Pa., March 11, 2021.
Matt Slocum
In this file photo, empty desks are arranged in a classroom at an elementary school in Nesquehoning, Pa., March 11, 2021.

As school districts in Pennsylvania continue to face teacher shortages, Sherri Smith, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators said she’s optimistic about addressing the problem, but that it will take time.

Smith, speaking to WPSU for an upcoming episode of "Conversations," said a “perfect storm” of factors has come together to create a crisis. From the cost of going to college to the increasing challenges teachers face in schools. Add politics to that, along with the after-effects of the COVID pandemic.

“So the job has gotten more difficult, and that has, you know, some of our teachers leaving the profession earlier than they typically would have," Smith said, describing those challenges. "And a difficult time trying to attract new teachers into a profession, where we all look for satisfaction in the job, as well as the fact that it pays us at a salary where we feel like we can live our lives in reasonably.”

Smith said schools, communities and parents are working through the issues the disruptions from the pandemic brought. But, she said, addressing ongoing teacher shortages could take years.

“I think we're going to have to work really hard at that collectively, both our legislators, you know, our administration at the state level, as well as our all of our schools moving together is that we've got to start recruiting, that the profession needs to start looking more attractive.”

The problem, she said, was not created overnight, and goes beyond salaries. But, she’s optimistic the state can go back to having enough certified teachers in its classrooms.

"I'm going to be positive — that six, seven years from now, we're going to have our classrooms full of certified teachers again, that feel they can do the job that they got into education to do, which is to care, love and educate our children."

To hear more about teacher and school administrator shortages, watch or tune in to WPSU’s “Conversations” at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16.

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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