Horry County classroom internships designed to prepare new teachers for real world

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Schools officials say as fewer college students choose careers in education, and more educators leave the job, the shortage of available teachers is reaching a crisis level.

The district faces two distinct problems: recruiting teachers and retaining teachers. The teacher shortage isn’t unique to Horry County as the need for educators is obvious across the nation.

“There’s definitely a teacher shortage nationwide as well as in the county,” confirms Valerie McNeill, Horry County Schools human resources director. “We’re starting to see not as many students are going into teaching as they did before.”

A growing number of teachers are also leaving early in their careers. The latest numbers in South Carolina show nearly 20% of all new teachers left during, or at the end of, their first year.

“So that’s giving us a smaller pool to actually pull from,” explains McNeill.

McNeill adds that Horry County Schools also has to compete with other school districts for valuable teachers.

“A lot of our neighboring districts are offering signing bonuses, so where that’s something we’re currently working on now, so we’re working to move toward things to attract those students to our district,” says McNeill.

Those recruiting efforts include teaming up with area colleges to offer programs that will keep teachers in the county while furthering their careers.

“CCU (Coastal Carolina University) has actually partnered with us as well because they provide reduced tuition for our current teachers that we have so they can go back and take graduate course level work at Coastal Carolina University,” reveals McNeill.

Another benefit for college students in Horry County and surrounding areas is the opportunity to intern within the district before graduating.

“The other part of our partnership is Horry County, Georgetown, all of our partner school districts, serve as our internship placements,” explains Dr. Edward Jadallah, Dean, Spadoni College of Education.

Dr. Jadallah with CCU says having the internships in place helps train the incoming teachers on what to expect so that more teachers will stay on the job.

“The first three years is when the teachers feel most uncomfortable and they decide to leave, so having that support will help retain those teachers and reduce the supply and demand issue,” says Dr. Jadallah.

Over the last three school years, between 4,100 and 4,800 teachers left their positions in South Carolina. Meanwhile, on average, only about 2,000 new teachers graduate from South Carolina colleges each year.