Wichita Public Schools celebrates arrival of new teachers, as Kansas looks to address teacher shortages

While school districts nationwide are facing staffing shortages, USD 259 is finding creative ways to fill openings for educators.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 8:58 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - School districts are busy securing new teachers for the next school year when nationwide, there’s a shortage of educators to fill openings. Last October, the National Center for Education Statistics found 45 percent of schools were operating without full teacher staffing.

Wichita Public Schools is working to avoid that impact on classrooms and spent Tuesday celebrating the signing of new teachers like Katie Brooks, making it official.

“Getting the call today to have HR confirm it, getting that offer finalized, means that I can finish my student teaching with the clarity and the weight taken off my shoulders,” said Brooks.

Wichita Public Schools hosted a signing day for 38 new teachers on Tuesday as they signed an open contract to work in the district in the fall.

Brooks will be a Pre-K Mixed Abilities teacher at the Little Early Childhood Center, a position she said fits very well with what she wants to do.

“I had dyslexia undiagnosed for the longest time, so for me, specifically, going into SPED and being somebody who is part of the early intervention, being PreK, I needed those services as a child, and I got those in middle school, so being somebody who can help catch that early on,” said Brooks. “Being part of the IEP development process is huge to me as someone who can create, add to this document that’s going to light that child’s path to success.”

WPS held its first teachers’ signing day last year for those who committed to working in the district.

“These are student teachers that have worked in our classrooms, so they’ve had a chance to kind of try before you buy, sort to speak, so they’re coming in at a great time and they’re going to be part of a bigger group that joined us even last fall,” said Wichita Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Sean Hudspeth.

Last October, Kansas reported more than 1,600 teacher vacancies, with most openings concentrated in special education and elementary, an uptick from previous years. Districts in the state reported reasons like no application and the applicants not fully qualified for the position as some of the reasons that vacancies go unfilled.

It’s something USD 259 has been working to mitigate as recruiters travel to many states and college campuses to bring new teachers into the district.

“Teacher shortage is real, but what I really like most about this is that we are really optimistic at a time when a lot of school districts are struggling to find enough teachers to cover their classrooms,” said Hudspeth.

Earlier this year, a Kansas Board of Regents Task Force put out a list of recommendations to address the statewide teacher shortage. On the recruitment side, it advised more scholarship funding and paid student teaching. For retention, the task force said mentorship for new teachers is key.

Mentorship is something district officials say they’ve made a priority.

“Our new teachers, they get a mentor for the first two years they’re here, so no other school district in Kansas is doing that,” said Hudspeth. “So when you sign on to be a new teacher, you have a buddy or mentor that’s working alongside of you for the first two years that you’re in instruction in the classroom. That helps get you oriented and helps you understand our culture.”

Brooks said he’s looking forward to the opportunity and looks to make a difference in kids’ lives.

“Dive deeper into what I’ve just dipped my toe into so far. All the knowledge, I’m like a sponge right now, just soaking all of it up,” she said.

Wichita Public Schools is still looking to fill 60 teacher openings before this fall. You can find more on the openings available here: https://www.usd259.org/domain/139