Kennewick School District in need of more teachers - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Kennewick School District in need of more teachers

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KENNEWICK, WA - A combination of constantly increasing enrollment and a major teacher shortage, a problem common across the U.S., is affecting the Kennewick School District.

The district is taking an aggressive approach to counter its teacher shortage problem, and last school year it started with making offers to some of its student teachers finishing up their own schooling.

"I was doing my student teaching here in the district, Kennewick School District," said Yurema Alvarado, a 5th grade ELL teacher with Eastgate Elementary. "I had a couple people go in and see me during December, so I got hired in December before I even finished my student teaching."

It's a technique Alvarado says the district used to hire some of her classmates at Heritage University as well.

"They were using people that they already knew, and they already knew their techniques," Alvarado said. "And they were going in and seeing those people before they even hired us."

However, it's not that simple, because there just aren't enough qualified teachers in and around Tri-Cities to bring in. This is why the district had to get on the road and recruit to fill their teaching roster.

"A lot of teachers like to stay in the same area where they were raised and grew up," said Doug Christensen, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources with the Kennewick School District. "So we do get a lot of teachers coming back to the area who went to school here, have family here, but the big challenge is to recruit those enough to get other teachers from other areas to come to the Tri-Cities."

Not only is the district looking for qualified teachers, but the growing demand for bilingual teachers to instruct the English Language Learners classes makes hiring even more difficult because of the unique requirements for those positions.

Christensen says Special Education and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) positions are consistently hard spots to fill.

The teachers that ARE being hired, however, seem to be enjoying their new jobs.

Alvarado is a month into her career at Eastgate Elementary, and so far, she's loving it.

"It's been great," Alvarado said. "Its been amazing and I have a great support system here in the school. My team is amazing."

But as of now, the team just doesn't have enough players.