SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Schools across the country are struggling to find teachers. In Georgia, there’s a severe shortage of science and math educators. WSAV spoke with a local university about how it’s trying to fill the gap.

“The state of Georgia alone had need for six to 8,000 teachers each of the last few years across all of K-12. In our region alone, here in the Southeast, we had over 200 openings just for science and math teachers last year,” Dr. Amanda Townley a professor in the Science Education department at Georgia Southern University explained.

The educator said incentivizing students to become teachers is just as critical as training them.

“It’s also important that we make sure that those teachers are highly qualified and engaged in their subject area so that when they’re in the classroom, it translates beyond rote memorization into place-based learning and problem-based learning where we’re creating the next generation of thinkers and problem-solvers,” Townley said.

The university plans to use a $1.1 million dollar grant they received from the National Science Foundation to fund a scholarship program centered on training secondary science and math teachers to go to high-needs schools.

“What we plan to do with this grant is to actually take students who are in content area fields so they’re not in education presently, and they’re going to tandem train to earn a dual degree, both in education; but also in that content area to help them translate into the classroom the skills that we need,” Townley added.

University staff said shortages hit middle and high schools the hardest because they often force educators into positions without the training they need: “Frequently we’re calling on other teachers to fill in for classes that they have adjacent training for, or have to get emergency certifications in order to teach; which puts a strain not only on the teachers, but it also puts a strain on the experiences that the students are having in the classroom.”

Townley said the only way to ensure a bright future for graduates is by making sure they have the teachers to help get them there in the first place. She said they hope this scholarship program will help students see how rewarding it ca be to become an educator.

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