Education on the Edge Part 3: Wahluke's struggles to hire and ke - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Education on the Edge Part 3: Wahluke's struggles to hire and keep teachers

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MATTAWA, WA - What gets Mattawa teachers up every morning?

It's the kids. That's the answer every teacher gave reporter Rex Carlin...teachers that drive in every day from Ellensburg, Tri-Cities, Moses Lake, Othello, and Yakima. But for prospective teachers, it's a tough sell. Just ask Superintendent Aaron Chavez. He's in a constant state of trying to hire, but he says there are huge benefits to working at Wahluke.

"Teachers that come here get really good in their craft, and that's, again, a big selling point for Wahluke schools," said Chavez, "is you can come here and really get creative and do some awesome things here."

He also says teachers get freedom at his district they won't find elsewhere.

"Other districts won't let you use Twitter, won't let you use Facebook," Chavez said. "We allow that kind of thing to happen, and encourage it."

Remember the grant the district received from Apple we told you about earlier on in this segment?

"Every one of our teachers have their own MacBook. Every one of our teachers have an AppleTV in their classroom," Chavez said. "So when they're teaching something in their class, their students can actually pull up the screen and the projector and show all the other students how they're doing a problem, and so there's a lot of collaboration within the classroom."

But there's the crux of the problem. As hard as it is to bring in new teachers, it's even harder to keep them.

Between all the training they get - paid for by grants the district receives -, the freedom to try new things in the classroom, and all that technology...the teachers become top candidates for other teaching positions in more ideal places.

Wahluke is preparing for teachers to leave, and that has a real affect on the students and their relationships with their teachers. Take U.S. History teacher Joel Dugan, on the first day of school in his first year at Wahluke.

"My first student that walked in the door, that was the first thing they asked me was: 'Are you going to be here next year?'"

It's the question every new teacher in the Wahluke School District gets asked.

So Rex Carlin asked one of the new teachers at Wahluke how she's been able to build that trust, when clearly it doesn't come easily.

"Treating them like a real person," said Hayley Spohn, Math and Special Education teacher. "It's just another relationship. With anybody, you have to build their trust too, so getting to know them and taking an interest in them and learning facts about them and not just treating them like your job."

That's why they wake up so early, that's why they drive so far, and that's why some of them keep coming back. Because it all comes back to the kids.

Our next segment is about a unique program Wahluke School District runs, called The Academy...an intensive program aimed to catch non-English-speaking students up with their English-speaking peers.

For the next Education on the Edge segment, click here:

Education on the Edge Part 4: Academy program helps English proficiency

For the previous Education on the Edge segment, click here:

Education on the Edge Part 2: Interactive Teaching

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