OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As school districts across the state prepare for the upcoming school year, the state has a rapidly growing need to fill numerous teacher openings across the state, including adjunct teachers.

Adjunct teaching is not new, but in the past, there has been a limit on the number of hours an adjunct teacher could be in the classroom.

Senate Bill 1119, by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, and Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, went into effect on July 1; it removed the previous 270-hour limit adjunct teachers work per semester in a classroom.

“The teacher shortage requires school districts to think creatively and strategically about staffing,” said Dr. Shawn Hime, Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association in an email Monday to KFOR.

“The Legislature’s recent decision to expand the number of hours an adjunct can teach each day will allow districts to recruit individuals with distinguished qualifications in their field to the classroom – using guidelines determined by their locally elected board of education,” he added. “While we must continue to seek ways to strengthen and improve traditional teacher recruitment and retention, alternative pathways are necessary at this time.”

“With the teacher shortage in Oklahoma now, we’re seeing a significant influx of both adjunct teachers and emergency certifications. And that is alarming,” said Deputy State Superintendent Janet Vinson, citing a downtrend in teacher education over the last decade, as well as an aging workforce leaving the classroom.

“We can tighten things up and provide more training and support to where we really do have a pipeline,” she added. “[But] It’s going to take a few years to build this. You can’t create teachers overnight,” she continued. “And that’s why you’re seeing these large numbers [of vacancies], because the teachers are not in the pipeline.”

Vinson says adjunct teaching coupled with emergency teacher certifications are just two options the state’s school districts are utilizing to fill those teacher gaps.

“With the new adjunct bill, you don’t necessarily have to have a college degree,” she added, while stating that specific teacher requirements are determined by a district’s locally-elected board of education.

Corresponding to the bill, adjunct teachers do not have to meet the standard certification requirements, depending on their professional background; however, they can be authorized by the local school board to teach a subject related to their field of expertise.

However, Vinson said not all vacancies can be filled by adjunct teachers, including special education, pre-K and kindergarten teachers or specialties that require a master’s degree; nurses, psychologists, counselors, library media specialists, etc.

Vinson also said there’s support for all educators across the state, regardless of their pathway.

“We want to make sure that we have a caring adult in that classroom that’s qualified to teach the content area [and] we provide pathways and funding and support to anyone who’s considered teaching [as far as] content; the standards, how to teach those standards, the alignment, the scope and sequence of every course,” she added.

Citing a myriad of challenges facing teachers in the classroom, educators speaking with KFOR Monday said those educator alternatives may not be a solid long-term solution to the rapidly growing classroom crisis.

“I feel like [adjunct teachers go] through the fire without having the right training,” said Dusty Crabtree, a longtime Yukon Schools teacher who has recently spoken out on why so many educators are leaving the profession.

“They don’t have the training or the perspective that long-term teachers would,” she added, also saying teachers may not have the investment in the classroom that more traditionally trained teachers might.

“It could help fill in some holes so teachers aren’t overloaded at in schools, but obviously not a long-term solution,” she continued.

“Every other profession is based off of what you learn in school,” added recently retired teacher Nancy Yaffe, citing concerns for new teachers who might not have enough training prior to entering a classroom, beyond subject matter certifications.

“They don’t know what’s going to hit them in the face when they enter the classroom in the next week to two weeks,” she added. “You have to have care and empathy for children.”

“They need a loving environment [with] someone that’s going to be interested in what they’re doing,” added Yaffe.

The 32-year educator said there’s also an added strain and stress on more seasoned professionals to help.

“Not only are they going to have to do their job, but they’re going to have to help the new teachers coming in, whether they’re coming in with an education degree or whether they’ve never been in a classroom before in their life,” she said.

“[And] if you have never set foot in a classroom, it’s a very different world today, it’s a learning curve.”

“This is a very crucial year for education,” said Dusty, adding suggestions for incentives that could keep teachers in the classroom longer.

“Becoming a master teacher, a higher salary, a prestigious kind of position,” she added. “It gives teachers something to look towards. ”

The Oklahoma State School Boards Association said they do not currently have the total number of adjunct teaching positions they expect to fill; however, additional information could be available in the coming weeks following an annual survey about the teacher shortage.