Could online learning be the answer to Saline Area Schools’ struggle to find teachers in its world languages department after a spate of resignations.
The district learned of the resignation of two teachers this week. Sara Shuster, a part-time German teacher at the high school and Jennifer Kron, Spanish teacher at Heritage, resigned.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Scot Graden told the board that by the start of the school year, eight of the 12 teachers in the district’s world’s language department will have been replaced in one year.
The district was already looking for a long-term substitute German teacher after Shuster told the district she was taking a leave of absence. Monday Shuster told the board she was permanently resigning.
Trustee Heidi Pfannes asked if it would be difficult to find a German teacher.
““It’s extremely hard. Frau Shuster fell into our lap. Her husband was transferred here to do his residency at the University of Michigan. She’d taught at a similar high school in the Chicagoland area,” Graden said. “Prior to that we’d struggled to fill the position.”
Graden said that the district’s pool of applicants for Spanish teaching jobs hasn’t been deep. The district has hired several French teachers who’ve moved on, as well.
Graden said the district plans to fill these positions for the start of the school year. At the same time, the district is beginning to explore other ways of offering world language classes.
“We may need to look at alternative ways to provide language instruction based on the fact that we’re struggling (to find teachers),” Graden said.
Pfannes asked if the district was considering online instruction.
Graden said it’s one of the discussions.
“Some of the research, particularly in the area of language acquisition, shows that online is a very strong contender,” Graden said.
The district is already offering some online world language courses, including Japanese, Arabic and Chinese. The district offers Spanish, French and German in a classroom setting.
For years there’s been talk of a shortage of teachers. It’s a shortage that the district hasn’t felt because with stagnant funding for education, there were relatively few teaching vacancies.
Now that the district is hiring again, Graden sees the shortage.
“In these unique certifications, we’re feeling it. We’re not getting a strong pool of applicants,” Graden said.
And it’s not just in languages. Graden didn’t see a strong pool of applicants for the high school physics opening.
In other human resources news, Debbie Hibbard resigned as secretary at the high school and Jackie Hardy resigned as enrichment director at the senior center.
New hires included Molly Garcia, student services director; Sara Austin, Pleasant Ridge School teacher; Astrid Leese, Saline Middle School teacher; Minela Ridinger and Kaitlyn Shafer, Harvest Elementary School teachers; Andrea Zapor, Saline High School teacher; and Elizabeth Gomez, food services assistant.