ST. LOUIS — School systems across the country continue have struggled with teacher shortages exacerbated by the pandemic and St. Louis Public Schools is no exception.
On Tuesday, the district's communications director George Sells told 5 On Your Side there were currently 76 openings with 111 at the beginning of the year.
“We have clearly made progress on that front,” Sells said.
Sells added that the district continued to work on incentives to attract teachers and other important roles, such as nurses and custodians.
Audrey Hammock teaches 4th grade at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy.
She's been in the classroom for ten years now with two little ones of her own in St. Louis Public Schools.
“I like inspiring the youth. I like getting to know the students and having that family connection. Having the family buy-in along with the students it's a powerful thing,” Hammock said.
Hammock was one of several teachers who received extra money this year for simply doing what she loves, a bonus as SLPS worked to reel teachers in to fill the many empty roles brought on by the pandemic burnout.
Sells explained that teachers who stayed on from last year received $1,000 at the beginning of the school year. Another $2000 will be awarded at the end of the semester to those who were with the district prior to the first day of school and who meet an attendance requirement for the semester.
A third bonus will be awarded at the end of the school year.
"If we're invested in staying and we're able to continue to be with the district, it's a great bonus for you. I mean who couldn't use a little extra money.” Hammock expressed.
Sells added that the district was working around the clock creatively to fill roles, like getting substitute teacher credentials to work full time.
“We still have been providing compensation for teachers when they have to use one of their planning periods to watch somebody else's class or to take over a class for a period of time,” he said.
Hammock encouraged others who think they might have a future in education to apply.
“Everybody has needed a teacher at some point in their life. Every doctor. Every lawyer. Every policeman so I think it's a big deal,” she said.
Most staff in SLPS experienced an eight percent raise in July, the largest annual increase on record.