Colorado teacher shortage: Attracting and keeping excellent educators

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) -- It’s a growing problem, and it has been for quite some time-- Colorado's teacher shortage. But a new plan may be a step in the right direction.

While most of the rural communities are feeling those growing pains the hardest, everyone is seeing those effects.

"Elementary school over the last decade or two has been easier to find teachers,” said Scot Bingham, the principal of Broadway Elementary School.

But the tides have turned.

"The last two to three years I’ve noticed fewer applicants," said Bingham.

There are many factors that turn teachers away. A new study by the Colorado Department of Higher Education is looking to pinpoint those problem areas.

It's focusing on changing the perception of teaching.

"Teachers are under a lot of stress, sometimes that’ll do it," said Bingham.

Another key point is retaining current teachers.

"Especially when they first start out, it’s hard. They go through all the schooling and have student loans," said Bingham.

The study also outlines attracting new talent and of course, pay.

"We lose teachers because of money," said Bingham.

While rural areas are being hit the hardest, District 51 said there are challenges across the board.

"We don't have a number of universities to choose from, so sometimes that can be a problem," said Bingham. "In metropolitan areas, there are more teacher prep programs."

But there are improvements on that front.

"We’ve been real happy that we've maintained a real steady line there, with the number of completers we have every year," said Professor Blake Bickham, from the Center for Teacher Education at Colorado Mesa University.

Places like CMU are expanding.

“A post-baccalaureate graduate program, that's helped because people have decided they want to go back into teaching and can go into this program," said Bickham.

Most educators agree they need good teachers, but also teachers who want to be in these communities. And of course, have the best interest of the children in mind.

Along the Western Slope, special education, math, and science are typically the hardest spots to fill.

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