Alabama school district now paying student teachers in effort to retain staff in classrooms

WVUA 23 News / Students work on assignments Nov. 17 in their Tuscaloosa City Schools classroom.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The shortage of teachers is affecting nearly every school district in the country, and West Alabama is no exception.

The Tuscaloosa City school district is trying a new way to get and keep teachers in their classrooms: paying student teachers.

"Our board approved a pilot program for us to be able to supplement up to 10 interns in the spring semester," Superintendent Mike Daria said. "The concept is to supplement that while they are doing their residency with the idea that they will stay on full time thereafter."

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When accepted to the program, student teachers who agree to begin their teaching careers in the Tuscaloosa City district after graduation will be paid $1,200 a month during their internship.

"Right now, they are getting nothing, and $1,200 is a lot more than they were getting," Daria said. "That is kind of what we want to gauge. Is that supplement reasonable? Should it be more? We don't know many places that are doing that at this point, so for us, it's a pilot to figure out how we do this well? It is my hope in the future that our profession looks at this differently, and I think certainly the city schools, we are looking at it differently."

Daria said he's excited about the program and hopes it will help bring more dedicated teachers back into Tuscaloosa classrooms.

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"We are taking a different approach at recruiting the best and the brightest for our students," Daria said. "Our students deserve the best teachers. We as a profession have to evaluate how we are structured. We have to evaluate what we do and the working conditions for teachers. It is the noblest job out there, but it is extremely complex. It is difficult, and we have these great teachers doing great work, but they carry on a lot of the burden on their students. They carry on the responsibility to get our students academically proficient. There is a lot there. We have to examine what we are doing in our profession so we attract people into this profession."

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Brianna Blair graduates from college in December. She has already been hired to come on board full time at Tuscaloosa City schools after graduation. She said the program is a great opportunity for students like her.

"I think this is a great program, and I am so excited for the future interns," Blair said. "It is an opportunity I would have loved to have. I think it is going to put some really good future educators in positions to help future students."