EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Is there still a teacher shortage in Utah?

Aug 7, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: Aug 8, 2023, 11:08 am

Image of elementary students at a shared desk....

The teacher shortage isn't as pronounced in 2023, but one official said positions are still available. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — With the school year just weeks away, some parents are wondering if there is still a teacher shortage.

“We have noticed a decline in the number of open positions for teachers and educators this year,” said Renee Pinkney, president of the Utah Education Association. “But we still have jobs that are going unfilled.”

Last year, Pinkney was told by educators that specific positions for special ed or other teachers went unfilled for the entire year.

“The number of job openings and the number of teachers who are applying for those jobs is starting to narrow, but we still are seeing a teacher shortage.”

It’s helpful to note that we are making progress.

“We have some data across the country that we’ll get back to pre-Covid levels in 2023-2024,” Pinkney explained. “But that is still recognizing that there was a teacher shortage going into the pandemic.”

Teacher shortage and post-pandemic burnout

Teachers have always been under a lot of stress, but that stress has been worse in recent years.

Pinkney said that stress comes from a number of different places, but two of the key triggers are expectations placed on teachers regarding standardized testing and changes in students’ behaviors.

“Some of the behaviors that teachers and counselors are seeing are just… they’re different, and they’re more extreme,” said Pinkney. “And that creates a lot of stress for teachers trying to teach their lessons and manage these behaviors.”

Are these behaviors the new normal?

“I certainly hope we get back to where teachers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Pinkney said. “What we saw during the pandemic where parents and other community members were treating, not only our teachers, but school board members and other politicians so disrespectfully.

Pinkney said that lack of consideration shown by the adults affected students’ behaviors in a real way.

Losing more new teachers

In Utah, teacher turnover is one of the lowest in the country. But turnover with new teachers is another story. In that category, we are above the national average.

“Within the first five years, 45 to 50% of our educators are leaving the profession,” Pinkney explained.

Half of the new teachers are leaving. Why?

“I believe that a majority of those educators did not go through the traditional college and university education programs,” Pinkney offered. “They were coming into the profession with a bachelor’s degree in their field, whether it’s mathematics or English or history, and then they went through a different pathway to licensure.”

What that different pathway to licensure skips is learning how to teach. Some of these new teachers are proficient in their subject matter, but they don’t have the skills they need to teach.

That proves to be a real challenge for new teachers and for the experienced teachers at the schools where they work.

“The teachers who are mentoring them, the veteran teachers are often trying to help them through the process,” Pinkney said. “That puts a lot of additional stress, but that’s what we do.”

Pinkney shared a personal story about her oldest son who has two degrees and told her.

“There is no way I can walk into a classroom just with my degree and be able to teach. I need to go through a teacher education program.”

That was the pathway Pinkney took to becoming a teacher, and she felt very prepared.

“When you walk into your classroom for the first time, you are learning on the job regardless of if you’ve gone through a teacher ed program, but that teacher ed program really gives you some skills that you don’t have if you don’t go through it.”

Teacher morale and the teacher shortage

How is morale among Utah’s teachers as they head back into the classroom?

“Teachers are resilient,” Pinkney said. “They are lifelong learners. They are reflective practitioners, and they are excited to get back into their classrooms. Always with optimism and high hopes that this year will be better than last.”

Every year at the beginning of the year, she sees a whole lot of excitement and optimism in teachers who are looking forward to meeting their students and having a great year.

What can we do to help?

Parents and teachers have a natural partnership in ensuring students succeed.

“Engaging with your child’s teacher or teachers at the very beginning of the year and creating that partnership where you’re working together is key,” Pinkney explained.

Communication is key to having parents know that they are supported and teachers know that they are supported.

“Student success is at the heart of everything we do,” Pinkney emphasized. “Our goal is to preserve the promise of public education and make sure our kids can live their happiest and best life.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Education + Schools

Student activists have spent multiple days occupying the lawns at Columbia University, calling for ...

Celina Tebor and Zoe Sottile, CNN

Rabbi associated with Columbia University recommends Jewish students ‘return home’ amid tense protests on campus

A rabbi recommended that Jewish students “return home as soon as possible and remain home” amid ongoing protests.

20 hours ago

The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.A Utah cancer researcher says more study is n...

Don Brinkerhoff and Simone Seikaly

Utah cancer researcher says new accelerated aging study needs more examination

A new study says accelerated aging may be linked to early-onset cancer, but a Utah cancer researcher says more investigation is needed.

2 days ago

A crew made of up BYU students films a Coca-Cola branded advertisement at the Thanksgiving Point Me...

Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com

Coca-Cola ad made by BYU students wins film competition, will screen at theaters

An ad for Coca-Cola made by BYU students may be showing at your local movie theater sometime soon.

2 days ago

A team at the University of Utah has received funding to research if ultrasound technology can help...

Britt Johnson

University of Utah using funding for ultrasound research to treat addiction

Could an ultrasound help cure addiction? A team of researchers at the University of Utah thinks so.

3 days ago

sign says "trans lives matter," the sign was for a protest about how slc school district was implem...

Heather Peterson

Implementation of new Utah bathroom law causes confusion in SLC School District

A new Utah bathroom law that takes effect on May 1 is at the center of some confusion about what schools do and don't need to do.

3 days ago

Students participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new West Lake Jr. High building in 2022...

Kyle Remund

West Lake Jr. High rebuilds after 2020 earthquake

After being severely damaged in 2020, West Lake Jr. High is being rebuilt with earthquake safety in mind. KSL's Dave and Dujanovic interviewed Ben Horsley of Granite School District about how the new building is being brought up to seismic code and how the district is preparing for future emergencies.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

Is there still a teacher shortage in Utah?