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New program could be solution to Arkansas's teacher shortage

The "Arkansas Teacher Residency Model" is set to start in Fall 2022 and will allow people to earn their degree and license, all while they're in the classroom.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It's something that we've talked about several times and unfortunately, it's still a problem in Arkansas. 

The state is still seeing a shortage of school teachers and substitutes despite the fact that COVID cases are trending down.

But, those in the state are putting long-term solutions in place, according to Ivy Pfeffer, Deputy Commissioner for the Arkansas Department of Education.

"When you really try to think about stability in the workforce, the long-term solution is what's going to sustain you for years to come," she said.

Pfeffer said consistency in the classroom is just what Arkansas schools need, as the demand for more educators continues.

"The teacher shortage has gotten increasingly more difficult for schools to find staff that they need to fill their open positions," she said.

According to Pfeffer, this issue has been going on since 2015 and the programs they already had in place needed to be tweaked.

"We created a lot of different pathways for teachers to get into the workforce. We realized that all of those pathways were really designed for people who already had a 4-year degree," she said.

This is why they came up with the "Arkansas Teacher Residency Model," which Pfeffer said will allow people to earn their degree and license while they're in the classroom.

She said this could be anyone, from a paraprofessional in a school district to students in high school.

"The benefit of working while you're doing this is that, that work experience can count for some of the college credit as part of the experiential learning," Pfeffer said.

While this is a fast-track towards a long-term solutions for educators, they're working on short-term solutions to help those substitute teachers according to Barbara Hampton, ESS (WillSub) Regional Account Manager. 

"There's a huge shortage. We could use 100 more substitutes in each school district just in a Little Rock area, alone," she said.

That gap is why Hampton said that the company started giving out incentives, such as giving $100 to those who refer a sub, along with paying for the fees that come along with becoming a substitute teacher.

"That's huge. I've been with the company 8-years and I've never heard of the company compensating for background check fees," she said.

Hampton said these programs just started and they are already seeing an increase in applications, which is a trend that she hopes continues for these pivotal positions.

"Without those guest educators, it's hard to keep a school, those classrooms up and running," Hampton said.

The "Arkansas Teacher Residency Model" will start in fall 2022 and for those interested, you can find more information here.

If you want to learn more about substitute positions and incentives, you can visit ESS's website here.


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