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Thoughts from Superintendent Woelber 3/1/21

Greetings from the school,


Question of the week: Mr. Woelber, I had a friend tell me that her sister could have her pick of teaching jobs in the area.  Does she have that large of an ego or is there something that has changed in the last 20 years?

Answer: Yes Virginia we do have a serious teacher shortage.  We have an even greater shortage of substitute teachers.  I might also add that we have a general shortage of quality paras, custodians, food service workers, and drivers.  

  • For many years schools had an abundance of applicants for the support staff positions because it was a job to “supplement” the family income and now that same support job has to play a bigger role in the family.  They were often folks that were working towards a teaching degree or a family member wanting a job that gave them the same schedule as their kids.  Bus drivers were often farmers that wanted extra income in the off-season.
  • Substitute teachers also used to be greater in numbers because each district enjoyed educators that wanted to eventually teach in the system and were able to substitute.  We also had many teachers who left the profession to raise their children and never went back to full-time and assisted by subbing.  Those great folks are into their late 60’s now and have deservedly slowed down.
  • 30 years ago there were 50 applicants for an elementary position, 30 applicants for social science, and 15 applicants for a science position.  Today we are lucky to get 4 applicants for an elementary position, 1 applicant for a social science position and if we are truly blessed, we might get 1 applicant for a science position.  
  • I feel that it is due to 3 main reasons.  First, over the top State of MN testing to simply get the license even after graduating with a college degree and a flawless student teaching experience!  Lengthy tests and high cut score levels at Algebra II, Chemistry, etc. regardless if you are teaching Kindergarten or Language Arts.  Second, I am seeing more folks that follow the dollar regardless of teaching is “10 months” a year.  A teacher starts at $40,000 a year with plenty of debt to get to work on while most other full-time workers will make just over that at $19.50 an hour with little to no debt and making that level of money 2-3 years earlier than a teacher.  Third, years ago a student (such as Loy Woelber) who was in trouble frequently was terrified if the parents found out.  Now, in some (not all) cases, the teacher and Principal must have a rock-solid case to “defend their position” and ready themselves for the counter-attack.  The media can be problematic when generally focusing on negative teacher behaviors and grouping all teachers into the “union umbrella.”  Of course, that has historically been more of an issue in the metro than out here in rural MN.
  • I am very proud to be a part of 3 districts that by and large appreciate teachers and all school employees for that matter.  They are neighbors, friends, and mentors for many of the students as well as their coworkers.  I have witnessed many school employees take on the role of aunt and uncle and carry the weight of many suffering students on their back and come in another day to try and make a difference.  
  • I don’t have the answers for changing this trend other than to grow our own teachers that want to live in SW MN and be appreciated by all of us.  In my opinion, we have good people and WE HAVE NOT had to hire second-rate folks simply because we have been lucky enough to get folks that are coming home and giving back to the community.  Working in schools has changed whether we like it or not and it’s now 80% educating and 20% missionary work for most teachers and paras.  Happy Spring Everyone!
Loy Woelber