FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — Teacher shortages are impacting schools across the country, which presents a unique problem when it comes to special education.
About 5% of students in the Fond du Lac School District and about 15% of students in the Green Bay School District need these special education resources, including Department of Public Instruction-certified teachers.
Ginnette Newman, who has worked in special education for 26 years, said these students’ needs can vary—from autism to ADHD, to other specialized learning disabilities. It’s her job to help them stay on track with their peers.
“I feel like it's really important to make sure that every student has a goal and that they feel they can achieve their goal,” Newman said. “It just might take a little bit more, and might take extra work, or maybe just the right kind of teachers, but they are able to do whatever they want to do.”
Right now, some school districts have vacancies in special education fields.
“One of the challenges we're finding, in addition to we can't find candidates, is we can't find certified candidates,” Fond du Lac School District superintendent Jeffrey Fleig said.
Fleig said some teachers in the district can tech while they are in the process of getting their certification, and take on extra coursework in addition to their jobs.
But the need to find special education teachers certified by the DPI isn’t unique to Fond du Lac. Jackie Hauser, director of special education at the Green Bay Area Public School District said they’re facing similar challenges.
“We definitely are seeing a need for special education teachers in Northeast Wisconsin, but it's actually even bigger than that,” Hauser said. “When we meet with other larger urban districts, we're hearing the same thing from them, as well as nationwide.”
The Fond du Lac School District is currently looking to hire three special education teachers, and the Green Bay Area Public School District is looking to hire two special education teachers, two speech-language pathologists and an occupational therapist. The Oshkosh Area School District is looking to hire five special education teachers and over 20 special education teaching assistants.
“The ideal candidate is someone who has an unwavering belief that the students they are working with can do whatever they want to do,” Fleig said.
Newman says these positions are essential for student learning.
“It's important for me to be in there, or any other special education teacher, to help give that student what they need so that they are able to learn the same thing as all the other kids in the classroom,” Newman said.
Fleig said they currently have 10 teachers who are licensed on stipulations, meaning they’re working while in the process of getting certified. Hauser said another solution is to work to recruit and hire these teachers earlier.
Katie Nieman, communication director with the Oshkosh Area School District, said they are partnering with UW-Oshkosh to fill some paraprofessional positions.
"This is one of the unique ways we are seeking to respond to the ongoing needs and ensure students and staff are supported," Nieman said.