Illinois custodian with master’s degree seizes opportunity with statewide teacher storage

S. IL teacher shortage

MOUNDS, IL (KFVS) - Schools across Illinois are impacted by a crisis in the classroom.

Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools has released a study showing that 89 percent of school districts in central Illinois have trouble filling teaching positions with qualified candidates. Southern Illinois fared worse, with 92 percent having issues staffing open positions.

Even though this a statewide problem, rural and urban schools are feeling it the most. Meridian School District #101 is seeing an direct impact.

Meridian District has 7 permanent substitute teachers and 7 vacant position in core subjects.

Alex Washam was a custodian at Meridian School last year. He has in Masters in Sports Management. This school year, he is the junior high social studies teacher.

“I was going from custodian to teacher and I was like, ‘Ok wow’, but it was a big opportunity and I was like I’m going to meet it head on,” he said.

“Last year, there was an opportunity here to work as a custodian, so I applied for that. I got the job abd then had a teacher shortage...I emailed Mr. Green and asked if there was something maybe I can do to get in to teaching. And he gave me the opportunity.”

Meridian School District Superintendent Jonathan Green’s necessity became Washman’s opportunity, “We are trying to reach out and look for any potential candidates that would want to come and teach because our kids need it.”

According to the study, the applicants are decreasing and inversely the shortage is increasing. Green said he saw this coming years ago. “A lot of things have changed over the last ten years as far as licensure and how difficult they have made it for individuals to actually get their teaching certificate license.”

Green says there are vacancies in high school math, english, physical education, drivers education, and social work, along with junior high science and social studies.

Green said this would cause problems for students and their future. “They wouldn’t meet the requirements to get into a 4-year university, because we don’t potentially have enough classes to meet the NCAA Clearinghouse.”

Washam said despite the state of the classroom and the shortages, he’s in it for the long-haul. “Our main goal here is to make sure they are successful when they leave Meridian.”

Superintendent Green says there are three to four thousand teacher jobs open across the state. He said he is talking to local lawmakers to try and cut the red tape for the policies in hiring teachers.

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