Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Where have all the teachers gone?..

Posted 6/20/17 (Tue)

When my wife and I visited Florida in February, I discovered something very profound.

There are 67 counties in the state of Florida and each county is also a school district. All 67 counties have teacher shortages

That means Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Fort Lauderdale, as well as the small towns in rural areas face shortages. Yes, Florida has rural areas.

Why is there such a demand for teachers in a state like Florida? You’d think that every teacher in the country would be wanting to jump on that bandwagon.

It turns out, Florida teachers are paid a decent salary, as teacher salaries go. You won’t get rich, but you’ll at least pay the bills, have insurance and be able to take advantage of state of Florida benefits.

The shortage across the Sunshine State is so severe that each county has a teacher recruiter. That means there is an employee in every school district who does nothing but get people to sign on to teach in their district.

It has also been recognized by the Florida Legislature that one doesn’t have to have a teaching degree to be a teacher.

As long as you have a bachelor’s degree from a legitimate university or college and can prove it, you can become a teacher in Florida.

Pick your community; Fort Myers, Key West, Wesley Chapel, Cocoa Beach, you can teach wherever you would like to go.

From what I understand, the greatest shortage is in math and English teachers. I’ve been told by the Bay County recruiter that males with English degrees are highly sought after.

Florida State University in Tallahassee churns out social studies majors, but there remains a shortage of social studies teachers.

Reading, English as a second language, athletic coaching and even agriculture are all identified as shortages.

It’s so bad that recruiters have gone to Chicago and Milwaukee and held job fairs there to attract new teachers.

When we were in Panama City  in February, which is the equivalent size of Bismarck and Mandan, the district needed 125 teachers.

So how do you teach in a public school without teaching credentials like you need in North Dakota?

What the Florida Department of Education allows you to do is get a temporary teaching certificate that is good for three years. When you sign a contract, your part of the bargain is that you will work toward a permanent teaching certificate within those three years which is considered plenty of time to make that happen.

The three-year, temporary certificate can’t be renewed so that is your time hack.

Sound interesting? There’s a website called (teachinflorida) that lays out protocol for becoming a teacher in the state of Florida.

The first thing a person must do is get in touch with a recruiter, then have an official transcript sent to the Florida Department of Education for analysis.

That agency will determine what your forte might be. As an example, mine would be social studies and English, in that order. That means with a journalism degree, I could teach journalism, English, history or geography.

And because I played baseball in college, if I can prove it, that easily opens the door to coaching baseball at a high school level in Florida.

There’s also the military option. With Naval Air Station Pensacola and Tyndall Air Force Base nearby, a lot of military retirees are recruited as well.

Again, as an example, because I taught officer candidate school for six years, I would be granted three years of eligibility. Thus, if I started teaching in Florida, I would start day one as a fourth-year teacher on the pay scale.

There’s no doubt the state is in dire straits when it comes to teachers. It includes public, parochial, charter and military schools.

Even more interesting is you can basically pick and choose. I would have no desire to teach in Miami, Jacksonville or Lakeland, but Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Tampa, Panama City or Fort Myers would all be favorable locations.

OK, so let’s say Sarasota. You can look up demographics of that community. You can see how many young people, how many retirees, how many military and the list goes on. You can get a feel for a community without ever setting foot in the place.

Our daughter, who has a master’s degree in English from Minot State University, teaches in Colorado and is working on nationwide credentials.

If she were to go to Florida with her master’s, she could go Waltzing Matilda into a principal’s position anywhere in the Sunshine State.