Written: May 2021 Updated: June 2022
Why Is There A Teacher Shortage In West Virginia?
The West Virginia Department of Education is currently investigating the growing teacher shortage. West Virginia state superintendent of schools Dr. Clayton Burch says, “In West Virginia, we’re losing 32% of all teachers in the first four years that they come into the profession. We’re not keeping teachers.” Many teachers are burnt out and under-compensated for their intensive workload. The profession is becoming politicized and teachers are villainized. Because of these working conditions, fewer students are graduating from college or university with a degree to teach mathematics.
WVU Associate Professor Dr. Matthew Campbell says, “There are not simply 700 or more empty classrooms in schools around the Mountain State at any given moment during the school year. There are adults in those classrooms. The problems, he said, come down to a number of issues — under-qualified short-term subs, long-term substitutes, retired former teachers filling in a role and teachers forced to teach a subject they didn’t specialize in.” Students need access to certified teachers to get a better education.
What is West Virginia doing to rectify the situation?
In 2022, the West Virginia Board of Education launched a revitalized website to support the Grow Your Own teacher preparation program. “Grow Your Own models are designed to provide innovative, low-cost pathways into the teaching profession. Grow Your Own West Virginia is one model that partners the county with an institution of higher education. Modeled after the nursing career technical education pathway, high school students begin the journey into the profession by earning credits and eventually classroom teaching experience before graduating high school. The goal is for candidates to enter a college with a minimum of 22 credit hours.” 21 counties are currently participating in the program, hoping to rejuvenate the workforce.
How does the teacher shortage affect individual districts?
Districts across the state have trouble hiring experienced teachers to fill their classrooms. Wyoming County Schools have had multiple math teacher vacancies across their K-12 schools and struggled to fill them with a certified instructor.
The district has had multiple instructors come into the education field through nontraditional means such as from a business or accounting field. These instructors understand the algorithms but often are not trained on how to teach students. The district needed a solution for their educator shortage that would also help their nontraditional teachers grow.
An Innovative Solution To Filling Teacher Vacancies
When the Wyoming County Schools superintendent visited an education conference, she heard Proximity Learning CEO Evan Erdberg discuss how virtual certified teachers bring quality education to schools regardless of location. Suddenly, the district can have access to livestream teachers across the country. The administrators immediately knew the program would be beneficial for their students.
Administrators from Wyoming County Schools visited two neighboring counties to observe classes where Proximity Learning had already been implemented. Kara Mitchell, Director of Academic Programs at Wyoming County Schools, said she saw that it was evident there that the students comfortably learned from their teacher on the computer and were cared for by the classroom facilitator. Wyoming County started implementing virtual instruction from Proximity Learning in August of 2019 for 27 classes across five of their schools. “From the very beginning, I have felt supported in this.”
“Our main goal was to make sure the transition was good and smooth for students, so we can provide them with the best instruction possible.”
Mitchell said they were interested in Proximity Learning due to the program’s highly qualified certified virtual teachers. Unfortunately, the nearby college has discontinued its math teacher program, so they no longer produce certified math teachers locally.
How does Proximity Learning grow local teacher talent?
Wyoming County leverages Proximity Learning virtual certified teachers as mentors to help invest and grow the capacity of their own teachers who are in the process of becoming certified. When talking to the district principals, she said they have seen teachers at Wyoming County Schools grow in their understanding of effective instructional techniques and how to manage a classroom.
What are the student outcomes of Proximity Learning?
Proximity Learning students perform at or above state averages. Additionally, unlike asynchronous online learning classes, Mitchell said she can attest to how the schools’ students and facilitators have developed strong connections with their Proximity Learning teachers because they interact with them daily via livestream. “We have seen behavioral referrals decrease because of that.”
One of her other favorite features is the teachers’ capability to record the lesson for students to watch if they were absent or needed to refresh their brains on a topic. The method of instruction in breakout rooms, “Can really meet a lot of diverse needs. It’s not just the teacher lecturing and the students taking notes. There’s so much more interaction and relationship building.”
Utilizing Proximity Learning has allowed the district to fulfill its goal of student academic, social and emotional success. Since implementing Proximity Learning in Wyoming County, approximately 520 students have been able to interact with the teachers through live video and receive a high-quality education.