COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – Idaho school officials said the state is facing a teacher shortage Friday.
The Coeur d’Alene School District said they had 20 applicants for the last position they filled. But eight years ago, the same position would have attracted more than 120 applicants. Part of the reason officials noted is an improved economy and lower unemployment numbers, but that is not the entire explanation.
For Mary Brewer, these last few weeks of summer break means a lot of prep work and getting back into the field she loves. Brewer had retired from teaching. When she heard about the teacher shortage, she came out of retirement to return to the classroom.
“I love kids and I love people who love kids. And I like the prep of creating an environment for them to love school. If they love school, they like life and they do things better,” explained Brewer. “I mean just to be able to play with their brains every single day, what kind of job allows you to do that?”
Brewer began her career as a teacher then worked at the collegiate level training other teachers before heading into semi-retirement and occasionally working as a substitute teacher. Now, she is headed back to teaching full time. As Brewer heads back to the classroom, she enters a dwindling field.
In 2015, data from the ACT test show only 4% of graduates intended to pursuing a career in education. That 4% tends to underperform in topics like science and math. Coeur d’Alene School District echoed this, telling KREM they have found it especially tough to fill teaching positions in these subject areas.
“I don’t know if they don’t see teaching as that ‘career’ that’s a good career,” said Brewer, “but it makes me sad because I like teaching and I like to promote the idea that teachers can make a difference in our kids’ lives.”
The Coeur d'Alene School District said salary and budget limitations also hurt their ability to recruit new teachers. The starting salary for a teacher in the district is just over $34,000.