NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As things stand right now, less than a month before the first day of school, Metro Nashville Public Schools is still hundreds of teachers short of what they need for each classroom.
That placed even more importance on MNPS's annual job fair at the Martin Professional Development Center, Saturday morning.
"So what’s your name?" asked Maletha Belgon, at a table for Chadwell Elementary School. "Currently we have a para pro position, also we have a permanent sub position."
If you watch Belgon work the room full of sales pitches, you might assume she does recruiting for a living. But you're in for quite the education.
"I am a First Grade teacher at Chadwell Elementary School," she said.
Belgon is the first to admit: teaching has gotten a lot harder, especially in the last few years.
"There are a lot of challenges with the gaps in the learning from being home and in school, but that’s okay; that’s what we’re here for. That’s what we do, and we’re up for the challenge," said Belgon.
A challenge indeed.
A NewsChannel 5 analysis shows, statewide, public schools are short more than 1,000 teachers.
"It is an issue that is across the state; it’s across the country," said Amber Tyus, Executive Director for Talent Strategies for MNPS.
A quarter of those vacancies are in Metro Schools alone.
"Our last count was about 250," said Tyus. That's about 40 more teacher vacancies than they had this time last year. "That does not alarm us, and we’re doing everything we can, and we’re trying to be proactive as opposed to reactive in ensuring that we get those numbers down," she said.
The job fair is just one way the district plans to address the shortage.
"Okay, how can we make this career more palatable? How can we make it more exciting and more intriguing for more people to want to get into the world of education?" said Tyus.
Tyus said the district also plans to fully staff a permanent substitute program so that schools have a full bench of subs in case all licensed teacher positions aren't filled.
For Belgon, it's about getting to mold the minds of the future.
"It’s life-changing. There’s no other job in the world like it. There’s nothing more rewarding than to know that the people out in the world — you played a small part in creating who they are and who they’ve become," she said.
That's why she's giving up a Saturday's worth of sales pitches: to make sure her school is fully staffed.
"Hopefully, we will look forward to seeing your application online," Belgon said to a potential applicant.
Even if you missed out on the job fair, it doesn't mean you've missed out on a career at MNPS. You can apply for positions online or call 615-259-8607.