School districts pack career fair looking for teachers

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 4:36 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - It’s still months away before the start of the next school year, but it’s not too early for school districts looking to fill their open teacher positions and the ones they anticipate on having in the future.

It’s not just South Dakota school districts that packed in at the Ramkota Inn Exhibit Hall for the South Dakota Teacher Career Fair. Even though it sits just across the Minnesota border, high school principal Robert Slaba said the Canby School District is searching far and wide to fill its open teaching positions, using a much different strategy from how they used to advertise jobs.

“We advertise in three different states, we advertise on four or five different websites. We try to get out on Facebook and any type of social media that those kids are watching and looking at,” Slaba said.

More than 80 schools set up booths trying to attract current students going into teaching. 12 states were present, with districts stretching from Houston, Texas, to Bethel, Alaska. The shortage has forced private schools like St. Joseph in Pierre to attend for the first time, and trying to help other schools if an applicant isn’t a match.

“We’re sharing people as well. If we see somebody that isn’t in elementary education, then we send them on to a district that we know that does have secondary,” said Becky Walsh, a fourth grade teacher at St. Joseph.

The shortage has given current students like Houston Wentzel and Shelby Dosch hope that when they graduate and get their license to teach, they’ll have the best opportunities possible. The two University of Sioux Falls students are still some time away from when they need to look for jobs, but attending the career fair gives them an idea of what to expect.

“A lot of the educators and administration are pulling you in to get any sort of information that they can. With the shortage, there’s a lot of opportunities in many states,” Wentzel said.

“It’s just great to see what’s out there, especially out of the state. We’re both from South Dakota and the Sioux Falls area. So just seeing maybe what’s in Nebraska or Minnesota. Just to see where life takes us,” Dosch said.

Ultimately, the conversation comes down to pay. Even though South Dakota has struggled to match its neighbors in average teacher pay, those states still could use more funding to fight inflation and match opportunities outside of education.

“We have the same issues that South Dakota has regarding trying to recruit teachers to come to Canby, Minnesota. We’re here today trying to recruit people to come across the border. We talk to them about pay. In the end, we talk to them about certain things that we can do to help them out when they come to town, what the cost of living is,” Slaba said. “There are a lot of things that we’re trying to figure out — how to pay teachers, how to be able to help them to have a life when they come to our town. It used to be, it wasn’t too bad. But right now, the pay is not what it needs to be. There’s no question.”