The impact that teachers have on students is far-reaching and life-changing. If you have ever considered making a difference in the lives of Arkansas children, now is a perfect time.


The Education Committee recently reviewed a report on teacher shortages in our state. The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) now says there is a critical shortage in 15 areas of study. These include Art, Chemistry, Computer Science, English/Language Arts, and Math.


There is also a concern with the number of Arkansans enrolled in teacher preparation programs. The number of students studying to be a teacher has dropped from 6,161 in 2013 to 3,563 in 2018. That is a 42% decline.


And keeping good teachers has also been a challenge. Since 2009, an average of 10% of new teachers did not return to the classroom after their first year of teaching. An average of 31% did not return after 5 years.


The Education Committee is taking all of this information into consideration as it develops recommendations for the next session.


In the meantime, ADE has implemented several initiatives aimed at recruiting more teachers.


There are currently 60,317 people in Arkansas with an active teaching licenses. However, during the last school year only 33,228 were employed as teachers. In an effort to bring more licensed teachers back to the profession, the number of required professional development hours have been reduced to 36 hours. Free online professional development is available through the ArkansasIDEAS portal at http://ideas.aetn.org.


There are 58 schools in the state partnering with colleges and universities to recruit more young people to the profession through a program called Teacher Cadets. Arkansas Teacher Cadets targets students with exemplary interpersonal and leadership skills. It features a curriculum based, hands-on approach which educates students how to become a successful teacher and enables them to put their knowledge to work through a classroom internship.


There are also several financial aid incentives including loan forgiveness and tuition reimbursement for prospective teachers. Visit arkansased.gov to learn more.