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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Schools all over Oklahoma are experiencing a severe teacher shortage.  

The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) says this is a statewide issue and many teachers are leaving the business.

Classes are growing with fewer teachers. That means more responsibility for the teachers there who are having to pick up other classes. Plus, increased class sizes means less one-on-one time for students.  

“One of the things that’s very important is to also have people that can help support classroom teachers. So that’s adding more counselors, adding more tutors and reading specialists, behavioral specialists. All of that matters in lessening the load or building the support around students and helping our teachers have more resources as a shared team,” said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In Oklahoma, more than 3,500 teachers still need to be hired at schools to be fully staffed in the state. 

“We were not in a teacher shortage. We’re in a chronic crisis of a teacher shortage, and our schools are desperately understaffed [of] teachers, support professionals, administrator. We are in dire straits and in a critical situation that we’re in,” said Katherine Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association.

Lawrence Lane, a classroom teacher at Checotah High School says a big reason teachers are leaving is the lack of support from administration. 

“I think a lot of them are frustrated. They’re frustrated with how things are going, not only at the state level, but also nationally. And they also see a change in the students. And sometimes they don’t feel supported by administrators. And as a result, it calls in the league and, of course, COVID and the pandemic certainly hasn’t helped,” said Lawrence Lane, OEA board of director, representing the South East part of the State and a classroom teacher at Checotah High School.

Conditions in the classroom are also contributing to the added stress.

“It’s a lot different than it was even 20 years ago. When I first came to that school. The students are a little different. Their learning techniques are a little different, and of course are more challenges that we face every day, unlike there were maybe 10, 15 years ago. There’s just totally different challenges,” said Lane.

It’s not only impacting teachers, but also day-to-day learning for students.

“Everything has a direct impact on our students learning. When you don’t have a certified teacher standing in front of our students helping to motivate them and engage them, it impacts their learning on a daily basis,” said Bishop.

The OEA says that’s not the only thing schools are lacking, there’s also a shortage of bus drivers and substitute teachers, making the battle of staffing far from over.