Savannah, GA (WSAV) – Savannah-Chatham schools are feeling the hurt of a growing problem nationwide.

As more students flow into Savannah-Chatham classrooms, fewer teachers are around to meet their needs

Across the United States, there is a huge drop in the number of students pursuing education degrees.

Here at home, we’re also dealing with factors like military deployments that often send off spouses, leaving another hole to fill.

So right now, Savannah-Chatham schools are holding up the help wanted sign—with 450 openings!

They’re making an extra push to a program that’s been around, but people may not understand as a way to recruit new talent.

Stephen Routh, a teacher at STEM Academy at Bartlett, never imagined himself as a teacher 20-plus years ago.

“Interestingly enough, it took me a long time to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up so I kinda bounced around,” Routh laughed.

But when the STEM Academy at Bartlett opened its doors in 2013, Routh was also on the path of something new: a career in education, despite his history in managing for construction, landscaping and utility companies.

“I don’t think I had a lot of that built in prejudice that comes in with that teaching education that this is the way you have to do things,” Routh said.

He’s one of the many Savannah-Chatham schools hired through the Alternative Pathways to Teaching program.

It’s a way those with a Bachelor’s degree in any field can become a teacher in Georgia, through a work-as-you-go certification program that takes one to three years to complete.

“We want to bring in those people who have a lot of field knowledge and a lot of skills,” SCCPSS Human Resources Heather Bilton said.

Those hiring see advantages to second-career teachers–they bring a variety of experiences that can help shape students for the real world.

But this group is also filling a dire need for a district that’s growing at a rate of one school a year as colleges around the nation deal with a 50% drop in students who want to be teachers.

“We’re always concerned but that concern has hopefully motivated us to really work hard,” Bilton said of the recruitment process.

Colleges blame the 2007 recession for changing students’ minds about entering the education field.

But now schools aren’t cutting positions—their demand is high–and supply is low.

If you’re interested in the Alternative Pathways to Teaching program, there’s an information session Tuesday, March 29th at the Whitney Complex on Laura Avenue.

You can stop by at 8am, noon or 6pm.