The Laurel School District will host a Teacher Job Fair on Saturday, February 5, at the Laurel Middle School to address a teacher shortage that is a problem in the district and the Pinebelt, and across the country. The job fair will be held from 9 a.m. until noon in the gymnasium.
The event is a proactive step regarding the upcoming school year, says Kristina Pollard, Director of Curriculum and Instruction within the Laurel School District.
"There is a major teacher shortage," said Pollard. "It has been going on for some time now in our country. It's hit our state, and it has hit our area. Therefore, we want to take advantage of having a job fair to strengthen our recruiting efforts and help others understand that this is a great place to serve."
The Laurel School District currently employs approximately 400 teachers. Pollard said there’s not a magical number they are trying to reach, but rather to fill the positions of greatest need and focus on the quality of teachers they hire.
"Within my role as Director of Curriculum and Instruction, we are focused on teachers and learning," said Kristina Pollard. "An essential component of that is recruiting higher and retaining high-quality teachers for the Laurel School District.
“We want to fill those positions we know are going to be vacant due to teachers retiring and so forth,” said Pollard. “We are also utilizing funds to create opportunities to decrease our class sizes and improve the quality of education for our students.”
One such teacher/administrator Pollard highlighted as an example of excellence is Dr. Kiana Pendleton, employed by the school district for four years now. She is currently the Principal of the Laurel Magnet School of the Arts.
"I love my job," said Pendleton. "I love the teachers around me, I love the parents, and I love the community around us. Laurel is a beautiful city. It's a hidden jewel, in my opinion.
"I love education. I love the possibilities. I love working with children and positioning them for success. I love working with fellow teachers to build their capacity for success. I love everything about it. It's my passion."
The current shortage of teachers is heartbreaking, especially how it affects the students, says Pendleton.
“Our children deserve teachers in front of them who are committed, dedicated, and loyal to their profession and truly care about their students,” Pendleton added. “I hope we can attract and maintain quality teachers to our district who meet the criteria we are looking for.
"We are a lot of fun, and we are a family. We are a community that is dedicated, loving, and driven. We are committed to excellence and getting the job done. We believe in our students, and that is key."
Pollard, who has been in the education section for 23 years, believes educating the younger generation is a calling.
"Teaching children is a service and ministry, in my opinion," said Pollard. "And this is a great place to do just that. I've been in the education sector for 23 years now, and I love it. I would not change a thing. There have been peaks and valleys all through my career, but the one thing that's stayed the same is impacting children."
COVID-19 has made the teacher shortage problem even worse and is part of why the Laurel School District is holding the job fair.
"COVID is impacting teaching greatly," said Pollard. "It's increasing stress, concern, and access. COVID is causing absences, which impacts the classroom, especially our younger students who are not vaccinated. We are doing the best we can to continue to provide quality instruction to our students. I will add that all school districts are struggling right now due to COVID."