SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – The persistent issue of teacher shortages in Florida continues to affect schools across the state, leading to the implementation of alternative learning methods at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs.
In an effort to address the shortage, the high school has adopted a virtual platform to teach Algebra II to its students. This virtual class is being led by a certified math instructor on an interim basis while Seminole County Public Schools actively searches for a new hire.
News 6 reporter Treasure Roberts recently interviewed a student enrolled in the virtual class, who chose to remain anonymous. According to the student, for the first month of the school year, a substitute teacher was assigned to their class, but the students did not engage in any academic work. Instead, they were mostly occupied with their smartphones.
After transitioning to virtual learning, the students have been assigned daily tasks under the supervision of a school counselor. While the teacher was physically present in the classroom for the past week to introduce the course, they will not be physically present for the rest of the term. Instead, students can contact the teacher via email for any inquiries they may have.
This situation at Lake Brantley High School is just one example of the thousands of teacher vacancies plaguing the state of Florida. Education officials are actively working to find solutions to this critical problem.
According to the Florida Department of Education, the top critical shortage areas for the current school year include Exceptional Student Education (ESE), English, Science-General, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Reading, Science-Physical, Math, and Tech Education (CTE).
To combat disrupted learning, Nicole Powers, the president of the National Training Network (NTN), emphasizes the necessity for districts to explore creative solutions. While acknowledging that virtual classes cannot fully replace highly qualified teachers in the classroom, Powers believes they can foster greater student engagement compared to independent work.
Powers also points out that virtual learning may not necessarily have a negative impact on students, as each student operates differently. She dreams of virtual learning becoming an alternative option alongside traditional classroom instruction, providing students with multiple pathways and options.
Powers’ company, Key Elements to Mathematics Success (KEMS), offers an innovative solution to the nationwide teacher shortage. The program focuses on training new teachers and substitutes to provide quality math instruction. Its purpose is not to replace highly qualified math teachers but rather to enhance students’ experiences in math classes while schools work to fill teacher vacancies.
The Lake Brantley High School student expressed her hope for a permanent teacher in the near future, as she worries about being adequately prepared for the next level of math. In response to the shortage, the school district is reaching out to individuals without education degrees but with a passion for working with children, aiming to help them transition into the classroom.
As the state grapples with this ongoing crisis, it is crucial to find effective and sustainable solutions that prioritize the educational needs of students.