CHS teachers discuss Arizona’s teacher shortage and what to do about it

Gabby Miller, Reporter

Over the past seven years, public schools across the state of Arizona have experienced a continuous decline in teachers. Based on data from the Arizona Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA), the global pandemic significantly affected the 2023-2024 year as nearly 10,000 teaching positions were unfilled prior to starting school. Public educators have implemented strategies to combat this crisis, but the teacher shortage continues to grow.

Chandler High School is determined to maintain its academic excellence as a seven-time A+ School of Excellence. As of this school year, CHS has employed over a hundred-fifty teachers through various academic departments (CTE, English, Fine Arts, Math, Science, and more). The International Baccalaureate World School has a diverse background with an estimate of 3,200 students. Although CHS holds valuable reputations in both academics and athletics, there is no doubt that the public school has experienced some effects of the shortage.

Trevor Hammond, who teaches both Government and World History, has resided at Chandler High School’s Department of Social Studies for the last two years. His stance mentions notable factors on the state’s teacher shortage: inflation and low pay. Hammond explains, “So, you have working professionals, many of which have a master’s degree or higher and these people cannot afford to live in the cities that they work in. So many teachers have made the decision that as much as they love their job they need to either find another field with better pay or move to a state that values its teachers and education system more.” Unless more Arizonians invest in public education, Mr. Hammond believes that the teacher shortage will continue to damage the state’s education system. 

Approximately seven years ago, student-teacher Alyssa Calvano began her academic journey to achieve a Master’s in Fine Arts at Arizona State University. She has worked interchangeably with both CHS dance teachers, Mrs. White and Mrs. Hurtado, since the beginning of 2023. Ms. Calvano is eager to become an official dance teacher and intends to uphold several goals. “I will maintain connections, promote what I teach, and bring awareness [to the teacher shortage], ” she says.

CHS Dance Director Tiffany White has been a member of the Chandler High community for four years. She has previously worked at other Arizona school districts, such as Gilbert Public Schools and the Coolidge Unified School District. Her exhaustion has recently grown with Arizona’s teacher losses. Like other public schools, Chandler High is unable to fully depend on substitutes to cover for regular contract teachers. This factor puts more stress on teachers as they are forced to step into this role, while being expected to maintain their official classrooms. Such demanding requirements lead to more teachers feeling burnt out and the need to quit. “It’s like a hamster-wheel cycle,” Mrs. White adds. Ultimately, Chandler High’s dance teacher hopes that public schools in Arizona can have an upturn of events in the next five years.

In what ways has the state of Arizona confronted the teacher shortage? The Arizona Teachers Academy allows aspiring teachers to leave college debt-free as they offer full tuition coverage at every state university and community college. Completing just five steps can guarantee a covered tuition and a teaching job upon certification. The Arizona K12 Center is involved with fee assistance to future educators who are trying to get certified. A great number of resources is provided by the Arizona Department of Education for education scholarships under most Arizona universities and community colleges. Although CHS teachers express concern, they remain hopeful for their students and the following school years.