VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — School divisions in Hampton Roads are battling dozens of vacancies ahead of the new school year.
Teacher shortages are a longstanding problem nationwide, but school leaders are thinking outside the box to fill gaps.
For Betty Spencer, nothing compares to getting back into the classroom.
“It keeps me learning new things and keeps me alert,” Spencer said.
Spencer retired in 2016 but decided to get back in the game and teach at Virginia Beach City Public Schools.
“I just started looking around for things to do and it was just a natural fit for me to look at the school system, to look for where they needed help,” Spencer said.
School leaders across the 757 are encouraging former teachers to come out of retirement. In many cities, officials report having dozens to hundreds of teaching vacancies still to fill.
Chesapeake Public Schools leaders said they have 52 vacancies, Suffolk has 85 vacancies, Newport News reports 280 vacancies. A spokeswoman for Hampton City Public Schools said they are 93 percent staffed with 97 teacher vacancies.
“We are hearing from school divisions that there are just no educators in the pipeline,” said Virginia Education President James Fedderman.
Virginia Education Association President James Fedderman said he’s seeing more retired teachers go back to school, now that COVID-19 cases are lower.
“I will say that over the past two years, school divisions have been innovative in all of their approaches to provide the best education for their students,” Fedderman said. “And this is just another way to do something differently. But retired educators have always been our go-to in the midst of a crisis.”
Retirees can find part-time and full-time teaching positions across the region, including in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.
“We are still looking for language teachers, French and Spanish,” said VBCPS Recruitment and retention coordinator Anne Glenn-Zeljeznak. “And of course, our part-time positions still include PALS, which is a literacy program, along with full-time positions in elementary education, pre-k to 6, special education, math especially.”
Recruitment and retention coordinator Anne Glenn-Zeljeznjak said there are plenty of spots for bus drivers, clerks, and substitutes like Rudy Melvin who came out of retirement too.
“Being retired, sometimes you get a little bored and I enjoy being around kids,” Melvin said.
Melvin and Spencer said they don’t plan to re-retire anytime soon.
“I haven’t set a time limit per se, it is just as long as I can do it I guess,” Melvin said.
“I am encouraging some of my friends that are retired, I am saying, hey this is the coolest thing you can do,” Spencer said.
Under a 2001 Virginia law, teachers who come out of retirement to teach in an area of critical shortage can both receive a new salary and continue collecting their pension.