Shortage of Teachers is Adding Up


Math teacher Mrs. Wick instructs a pair of students before the start of class. Photo taken by Deshaun Jefferson.

It’s no secret that schools have had shortages of teachers since returning to session after the COVID-19 pandemic. Stafford High School is a shining example of this, as the head of our math department, Valerie Wick, has had to take on a whopping eight classes to counteract the effects of the shortage. Unfortunately, this shortage is not limited to SHS.

The Chief Talent Officer of Stafford County, Patrick Byrnett – who serves as Stafford County’s authority on recruiting the most qualified candidates for roles in teaching and other administrative positions  – acknowledged that there is “Definitely” a shortage of teachers, which he qualified as being primarily mathematics heavy with 10% of Stafford County’s math teaching positions being vacant.

The effects of this vacancy are quite noticeable to teachers, as they are “encouraged” to teach additional classes with the incentive of an “appropriate salary increase,” Byrnett explained. In the case that a vacancy isn’t filled by a full-time teacher, it will be filled by a long-term substitute until an eligible candidate is found.

“There’s a shortage of math teachers in the county, state, and the entire country,” Wick explained. She elaborated, saying, “Ideally we’d have 15 math teachers for this high school – right now we have 13.” Although it may not seem major, this shortage has forced Wick to cover eight classes, leaving her no time for a planning block. “I haven’t had a planning block for about four years.”

Wick admitted that this lack of free time has made her daily life significantly more stressful. “My blood pressure has gone up and my hair’s gotten grayer,” Wick jokingly conceded, while simultaneously counseling a student with their homework.

The only way to solve this problem, of course, is to hire more math teachers. Unfortunately, only a single math teacher has been hired this school year – that being in late August. According to Mr. Byrnett, the primary factor limiting the hiring of new math teachers is that the certification required to teach mathematics is also valuable to private sectors – the most appealing being government-run departments – due to their higher salaries. The result is a vicious cycle, as teachers’ stress during shortages and other career prospects leads to further vacancies when they ultimately decide to quit.

The entire United States is experiencing this shortage, as Bloomberg News recently detailed a study from March 2022 by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) which found that 44% of public schools in the country reported teaching vacancies. Even more troubling is that LinkedIn reported that the amount of teachers who quit in June 2022 was 41% higher than in the previous year.