BETTENDORF, Iowa — It may not even be spring yet, but school districts around the Quad Cities area are already thinking ahead to the next school year. 18 school districts attended the 21st annual Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency Teacher Job Fair on Monday.
"It's a great opportunity for our school districts because they can come here and there's different teachers looking for different types of jobs," said MBAEA Human Resources and Employees Benefits Specialist Dawn Meier. "It's a one-stop shop. I always say that."
The Pleasant Valley Community School District was in attendance with 14 openings for the next school year, ranging from elementary school teachers to special education teachers to music teachers.
"Over the last few years, we've had about that, 14, 15 new teachers that we've been hiring because of growth," said Superintendent Brian Strusz. "It's also because of retiring teachers... We've seen a lot of new teachers each year."
The Sherrard school district is also looking to fill seven open positions, including counselors and an athletic director.
"Obviously, the best and the brightest people who are willing to work hard and people who are willing to stay," said Superintendent Chris Johnson. "People who are willing to go the extra mile for the school and the community and the students."
Across Illinois and Iowa, there are thousands of open school jobs. More than 5,300 classroom positions, including administrative and support personnel, went unfilled in 2022, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. A recent survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools shows Illinois' teacher shortage is at the highest level in five years. That same survey found that 68% of districts reported fewer teacher applicants than the year before.
"I would say there's not necessarily an uptick (in open positions), but we've seen the candidate pool shrink a little bit," Johnson said. "So I think it's important to get out here and to get your name out there and make sure that the candidates understand that this is a great place to work and recruit as much as possible."
Meanwhile in Iowa, Teach Iowa, the statewide job posting website for teachers, lists more than 1,600 openings for classroom teachers as of Monday. That doesn't include all other school-related positions of which there are nearly 5,000 postings.
Strusz agreed with Johnson.
"I think the difference is the number of people applying has definitely gone down, but we're still seeing a good quality of teachers, which is really exciting," Strusz said. "I think just students selecting education as their profession as their career, we're just not seeing that same number of people increasing and going into that area."
"When you look at the pandemic, when you look at the overall national attitude, sometimes it can be a little bit of a challenge," Johnson said. "Pay structure, retirement structure, I think are often times challenges. If we get a chance to talk to people, I think that they come around to our way of thinking so to speak and realize that it's a great career to get into."
Both districts emphasized wanting to hire teachers who would stay in the district and retire there.
Between two and three dozen people attended the job fair.