Math and Science Teacher Shortage

October 30, 2003--posted at 6:05 p.m.

Jonesboro, AR-- Where have all the math and science teachers gone?  Educators and administrators across the state and nation are asking themselves why aren't more people wanting to become math and science teachers?

According to the state department of education, 1,355 teachers graduated from Arkansas schools in 2002. Of those graduates, there was only 1 physics teacher, 1 chemistry teacher, and ten biology teachers.

Wilam Maiers of the Arkansas Education Association says, "What the student sees in the classroom is they look around and say I don't want to do that."

Maiers says kids don't see the excitement of teaching and they know they can make more money. "If I'm recruited by a company that's going to start me out at 50 thousand verses, 24-thousand, it's pretty obvious, unless I'm really, really, really committed to education, I'm going to take the money."

Jonesboro High School math teacher Jackie Hale is one of those really, really, committed to education, for the last 25 years and she says, "You put your money where your heart is and if we're not willing to pay teachers then it seems like it's not a very important career if the money's not there."

Maiers agrees, but says it's more than that, adding, "We have to make teaching something that's held up in esteem, rather than oh well, you're just a teacher, kind of thing."

"Teaching is wonderful and there is no more fulfilling career than teaching. I think that if students could just get a taste of that or have a few teachers that are really supposed to be there, then I believe they could forget that the money was the motivator. They could be motivated by teachers that are good examples," says Hale.

Both Hale and Maiers also believe there needs to be serious teacher recruitment programs put in place, beginning in the fifth grade. They say the seeds need to be planted early that teaching is a noble and valuable career.