Public school districts across the country have been dealing with a teacher shortage. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, administrators had to think outside the box when it came to hiring.
"This year, in March, when we all went to distance learning, we pretty much canceled all the recruiting face-to-face events. We already planned and pivoted to going full-steam on virtual events," said Jessica Solano, the Teacher Engagement Leader for Polk County Public Schools in Florida.
Solano says her district had been boosting their virtual platform before the pandemic so when it hit, they were ready to switch all of their teacher recruitment to online. What they found surprised them.
"What is so ironic is we actually had our best year yet by doing such an active push on virtual recruiting. Even our district career fair that we traditionally host every year face to face. The year before we had over 350 people attend, which was fantastic and it definitely hit high numbers, but this year we had 700 people attend," said Solano.
Because the teacher career fair became virtual, the district was able to reach a larger pool of candidates. Candidates that normally require lots of travel and marketing to get.
At Denver Public Schools, Executive Director of Talent Katie Clymer says recruiting during a pandemic and a teacher shortage was challenging at first.
"We have a very targeted teacher shortage. If I can speak bluntly, we’ve got lots of elementary teachers. We do not have Spanish-speaking teachers, so our ELS positions. We do not have math teachers. We do not have enough science teachers and we do not have enough teachers of color who represent our students and family," said Clymer.
Going virtual with recruiting also allowed districts to save money on travel costs, as they often have to hop on a place to find the exact teachers they need.
"We saw a higher level of candidate engagement because this was the option to engage in a hiring fair. Whereas previously if you have the option to attend in person or virtual, you're more likely to attend in person whereas when virtual is the virtual is the only option, we saw a higher level of candidate engagement and subsequent follow up," said Clymer.
Many public school districts also rely on a number of retired teachers to help them throughout the school year.
"We often see our retired educators coming back as hourly teachers or substitute teachers. They play a really critical role in continuing to support our students and they're highly sought after by our schools as guest teachers or substitute teachers," said Clymer.
This year, though, Denver Public Schools is expecting less retirees will return to the classroom as a majority are considered high risk for contracting COVID-19.
Still, the district and Polk County Public Schools report a majority of their teaching positions have been filled for the new school year, largely in part to a boost in virtual recruiting.