JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — Retired teachers are playing a key role in reducing the teacher shortage in East Tennessee.Many are logging in to help out with virtual learning workloads.
In Jefferson County, the school system is hiring 32 part-time distance learning teachers with $312,000 worth of state funding.
“We are working to provide assistance to our classroom teachers and, in turn, will provide additional support for our distance learning students and families,” Director of Schools Shane Johnston said.
Retired teachers and those with active teaching licenses are eligible to apply.
One retired teacher in Jefferson County said she's willing to step in and help during this time of crisis.
Teresa Franklin taught Algebra for 30 years at Jefferson County High School and retired in May 2019. She swore she would never go back to the classroom, despite naysayers like her nephew.
"He said, 'oh, you'll pull a Michael Jordan and come out of retirement and get back into teaching,'" Franklin repeated. She didn't believe him.
But a couple months later, she did. She accepted a position as an interim algebra teacher on a 100 day contract.
“My head told me to say no, but my heart said, 'you can’t let those kids start their Algebra 1 high school math career without a math teacher,' so I accepted a 100 day contract and heard a lot of ‘I told you so's,' but that’s okay," Franklin explained.
After that semester, she thought she was finally done. But then the pandemic hit and Jefferson County started offering distance learning in the fall.
She noticed the extreme workload on teachers and the strain on students and parents. She wanted to help in any way she could.
"I was concerned about teachers and parents and how they were gonna have the time and resources to provide a quality education for students both at home and in the classroom," Franklin admitted.
She decided to start offering tutoring virtually. When the school system announced it was hiring 32 part-time distance learning teachers to fill in the gaps in education, she applied.
"I felt like as a retired teacher it was the least I could do to step in there and try to take some of the workload off of the teachers so they might have a second to catch their breath and won't have to miss their kids ballgames and activities," Franklin explained.
She's not the only one either. The director of schools said multiple applicants include retired teachers, just like Franklin.
"Through all of this, and doing my Michael Jordan move, I've learned that you can never say never," Franklin smiled.
She hopes one day she'll get her real retirement, but for now, schools need her.
The Jefferson County Director of Schools said about 15- -20 licensed and retired teachers have applied so far. Those hired will receive online training for in the classroom and online.
Johnston said the district will not rule out the possibility of accepting additional support for the teachers from individuals that are not certified, but they will have to wait until the applicant pool is complete and the board will evaluate the number of applicants and qualifications from there.