Local News

Wake County Goes To Work To Solve Teacher Shortage

Posted November 12, 2004 9:26 a.m. EST

— North Carolina's teacher shortage may be approaching a crisis.

The state needs to hire 10,000 teachers every year. The problem is certified teachers are in short supply.

That is why many districts, including

Wake County

, are relying more on private sector professionals to fill that void.

Frank Reed traded in 20 years of corporate board rooms for middle school classrooms.

"Some people might not believe this, but this is the truth -- this is the first time in my life I don't mind getting up in the morning and coming to work," he said.

Reed is among almost 500 teachers who have gone from the business world to the public school system in Wake County. The state gave them a three-year temporary license, which is good as long as they take classes and pass a certification test.

"You're put beside a person who's been part of this process, student teaching, and then you're trying to play catch up," said Diane Kent-Parker of Wake County Schools human resources.

Beth Neumann left her career as a chemical engineer to teach sixth grade science. She said she could not be happier, but the switch was not easy.

"I don't think anything can really prepare you for that until you get into a classroom and start diving into it," she said.

Wake County does not want its future teachers going directly from cubicles into classrooms without some help. A $2.5 million federal grant pays for their extra training.

Lateral entry teachers get 10 days of orientation before the school year, they are paired with a mentor when classes start, and meet for training once a month. Still, some do not last and turnover is an issue.

"It's less than it used to be, because we're clearer about what is expected, but it does happen," Kent-Parker said.

Neumann and Reed said they are prepared to ride the highs and the lows of teaching and plan to make this their second career.

"Being a teacher-- it's got to be a calling," Reed said. "You can't do it for the money."

Those who answered the call for a second career make up 6 percent of Wake County teachers. Without them, the school system would have a tough time giving students the education they deserve.

Wake County is looking for lateral entry teachers in critical need areas like math, science and foreign language.

According to the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, the state teacher shortage will only get worse as the student population grows to 1.6 million by 2010.