Navigating Through a Perfect Storm: Teacher Recruitment in COVID-19

Posted By: Dr. Daniel Hartman AASPA Blog,

Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, school systems were already facing a serious crisis, the national teacher shortage. In the most recent Gallup Survey of K-12 School District Superintendents, conducted prior to the pandemic, recruiting and retaining talented teachers was the top challenge identified by participants. In recent years, the Economic Policy Institute, American Institutes for Research, Learning Policy Institute, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and other reputable educational and research organizations have reported on the grim reality of the nation’s teacher shortage and the implications this could have.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to an already challenging task. In a separate Gallup poll, nearly half of current college students report that the pandemic may impact their ability to complete their degree program, and this certainly includes teaching certificate candidates. Although the magnitude of the impact is still unclear, most educational leaders also report experiencing, or anticipate experiencing, pandemic-induced departures from teachers who may have otherwise remained in the profession, increasing the number of vacancies that need to be filled at a time when an already depleted applicant pool exists. On top of all of this, many of the traditional means of recruiting, such as attending career fairs and conducting on-site college visits, may not be viable options this year.

Amazon, the World’s most successful retail business, lists frugality, the ability to accomplish more with less, as one of their key leadership principles, believing that constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. Applying this principle to recruiting efforts can help provide the silver lining for education leaders trying to overcome the barriers we are currently facing. AASPA recently asked human capital leaders throughout the nation about the practical and innovative strategies they were using to recruit teachers during these challenging times. Below are a selection of the responses:

  • Leveraging technological capacity: “During the pandemic we’ve been forced to update our technology tools (e.g. expanding Zoom capacity) and our team’s proficiency in multiple technology platforms. We’ve done this to ensure we can keep pace with the recruitment demands while not being able to meet in person.”- Quentin Liggins, Director of Talent Acquisition, Retention, and Development, Tulsa Public Schools-Tulsa, OK

  • More frequent, but shorter, connections: “Now more than ever, people want to feel valued and heard. Instead of sending emails with all of the typical information like salary, insurance, special programs, etc., and waiting for a response, we call the candidates and have short conversations frequently. The first call is to say something like ‘I am sending you an email that has salary, insurance, and other information and I will call in a few days to walk through each of those things with you. Then over the course of the next week, we call to discuss the items and answer any of their questions. Then, we move into conversations about what schools they might like to work in. By the third call, we are connecting them with specific principals that we believe will be a good fit. As the principals take over the short, frequent calls, they provide information about their school, and include their team, and connect them with the teacher(s) they will partner with. We are finding that these ongoing conversations have been key to building relationships that lead to great hires!”- Jessica Bennington, Executive Director of Human Resources, Ogden School District, Ogden, UT

  • After hour’s tours: Also from Odgen’s Mrs. Bennington, “Since we limit the number of people in the buildings during the day, we provide future teacher candidates with tours of our buildings after hours. This does require logistical planning, but the candidates really like the one-on-one attention, and the principals like the time outside of the school day where they don’t feel rushed to talk to candidates.”

  • Amplifying the voice of current teachers to assist in recruiting: “When the pandemic hit last spring, our district developed a website specifically for teacher recruitment that was separate from our regular employment website. This new site included all of the information we would typically share with potential candidates at recruitment events, not only information about our district, but information about our community and links to various community resources. The highlight of the website, however, was a video we produced which featured current teachers from throughout our district sharing what they liked best about working for our district. The best way for potential candidates to know what teaching for a school will be like is to hear directly from those currently doing it” – Dr. Daniel W. Hartman, Assistant Superintendent, South Western School District, Hanover, PA

Throughout the month of February, AASPA will be posting several Twitter questions related to teacher recruitment. Members are encouraged to share their practices, ideas, and stories so that we can continue to learn and grow from one another.