When JoAnn Phan graduated in 2010 she had no idea it would take over 18 months to receive her first teaching job. Sadly, this is becoming the norm for first year teachers in Texas. The number of new hires has dropped by 40%.
Between 2011-2012 more Texas teachers left the profession than entered it. Public schools in Texas lost 35,800 teachers but only hired 24,871.
"It was a bit of a shock," said Phan, 25, who landed a job in August 2012 as a kindergarten teacher at DeChaumes Elementary in north Houston. "I did not know just how hard it was to find a teaching position."
Jennifer Radcliffe writes in The Houston Chronicle that experts believe there are a number of reasons for the decline in first year teachers. They are hopeful that the trend will turn around quickly as more veteran teachers retire. The past few years veteran teachers have been unsettled about retiring due to the rough economic climate.
"Two or three years ago, we saw a definite dip" in hiring new graduates, said Melissa Pierson, associate dean of the University of Houston's College of Education. Recruiters didn't even make the rounds those years, she added.
Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers shared that Houston ISD has several elementary teaching positions open among the 130 vacancies in the school district. These used to fill quickly but there are fewer qualified candidates on the market.
"There are fewer people who want to be teachers," Fallon said. "It used to be you got a lot of respect and didn't get much money. Now, you get not-much money and no respect whatsoever. At that point, why would you do it?"
The head of talent acquisition for HISD says that the largest school district in the state hires around 1500 teachers a year. They are constantly recruiting, but some principals are reluctant to hire new teachers.
She has also noticed a decline in the number of people interested in teaching. This is especially true in the fields of Math and Science.
"We're trying to build a very rich pool of both novice and experienced teachers," she said.
"What someone brings to table definitely matters"
Some school districts began a hiring freeze in 2006 due to funding cuts from the state and property tax revenue declines. Legislatures slashed school funding in 2011 which led to layoffs of around 11,000 teachers. Officials tend to hire those already laid off before hiring new recruits.
Experts believe things will begin to look up due to a steady stream of retirements at the first of the year.
"I get phone calls every single day from principals asking for teachers to interview," said Lidia Zatopek, director of the Harris County Department of Education's alternative certification program. All 17 of her recent graduates found jobs easily.
Zatopek also states that many of her friends are ready to retire, after the long wait during the economic downturn. Pierson has also noticed the return.
"Districts are telling us absolutely they were hiring," she said. "They said that they're even getting teachers coming in now and quitting. â¦ It's a great time for our students."
Phan said that despite the long wait for a job she is happy to have found her position at DeChaumes Elementary in the Houston ISD.
"It was one that was definitely worth the wait," she said. "I can't imagine working at any other school that is as perfect of a fit for me."