Finding qualified teachers is a problem statewide and is a challenge for Henryetta schools.
That was the warning issued by Henryetta high school principal Kelly Furer to local Rotary Club members.furer
Speaking at their meeting earlier this month, Furer said she has seen the problem especially in the past two years. “We have had to place people in jobs with an emergency certification.” That means a person with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education but who has an interest in helping the students can enter the classroom.
“The challenge there is these people have not trained in classroom management.” Furer said when she was just starting out in education, a teacher told her classroom management is most important. “If a teacher can’t manage their classroom, no learning takes place.”
She said there was a time that a flood of applications would be sent for a single teacher opening. “Now we get one. When we look at recruiting and retaining teachers, we are in competition with all school districts in Oklahoma.”
One new plan going into effect in the state is a four-day work week with students then the teacher uses the fifth day for professional development, meetings and administration. “Its not the traditional five-day teacher-student work week and I think we will lose teacher for this.”
Another issue facing Henryetta in particular and other smaller communities is housing. “We don’t have the new sub-divisions to entice them. Many young teachers coming into education are not set on buying but want to rent at first.”
Also speaking to Rotarians was Kira Hardgrave, counselor for both Middle and High school students.
Born and raised in Henryetta, Hardgrave said she made the decision to come back and work in her hometown. She was the high school science teacher before the combined counselor position was set up last year.
Funded by a state grant, her office provides students access to a counselor on a regular basis. “We are getting with students on their educational as well as their emotional needs,” she said.
A survey at both schools indicated 30% of middle school students and 45% of high school students felt they needed support because they are anxious and nervous. “Another 43% said they have a lack of confidence in themselves.”
She said she woks closely with students to address those issues.
“We want to increase our proactive services to address those needs before they escalate.”