Fairfax Co. Resident Teacher Program Helps School System Overcome Staffing Shortage
A newly created program in Fairfax County aims to place qualified teachers in classrooms as they take the final steps towards earning a specific certification.
When a friend she trains with informed her of a vacant teaching position at Fairview Elementary, Catherine Coulter’s long-term goal became a reality.
Coulter, a graduate of Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, said her dream of eventually working in the county gave her the opportunity to be part of a band, choir and the DECA business organization. . So when her friend offered to put Coulter in touch with Samantha Goldstein, principal of Burke Elementary School, she didn’t hesitate.
Now, Coulter is entering his first year of teaching in Virginia’s largest school system as a resident teacher, a newly created position aimed at placing qualified teachers in classrooms as they take the final steps towards the obtaining a specific certification. The county’s human resources department spearheaded the initiative.
For Coulter, that means earning an elementary teaching certification while she teaches at Fairview Elementary.
Coulter is already certified in secondary education and has out-of-state teaching experience.
The new program could help the county fill remaining vacancies before the school year begins Aug. 22, and is one of many ways DC-area jurisdictions are working to address staffing shortages.
Superintendent Michelle Reid previously said in a message to families in late July that the county had 97% of positions filled. Goldstein said with the addition of Coulter and another resident teacher, Fairview classroom positions are now fully staffed.
“Had we not been able to fill (both) positions, then those positions would potentially have been left vacant, filled by replacements or other FCPS professionals coming out of different roles to fill those in-class positions,” Goldstein said.
Coulter, a 2012 Lake Braddock High School graduate, said the opportunity is attractive because it can provide students with impactful learning experiences inside and outside the classroom. A graduate of Virginia Tech, she hadn’t always planned on becoming a teacher, but enjoyed teaching in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as part of Teach for America. She recently taught at DC
“I want to continue to serve the children in our community,” Coulter said. “Even though we’re going through really tough times, it’s still important for me to show up every day, to bring my experience, to bring my knowledge, to bring my love of teaching to them.”
Resident teachers in the county are paid about $48,000 a year, according to a job posting, and program participants are eligible to receive benefits.
Goldstein said the alternative to the program would be to hire teachers like Coulter to fill long-term replacement jobs, which don’t come with benefits.
“We have this national teacher shortage crisis and we really needed to find unique ways to bridge that gap for people who had been educated and maybe taught in different states or had different experiences working with children coming in Virginia,” Goldstein said, “and nice how can we bring them into FCPS with the basic knowledge they have?”
While there are usually teaching vacancies throughout the county, Goldstein said, “it wasn’t like what we’re going through right now.”
A spokeswoman for the school system said a few hundred people attended a virtual information session about the program earlier this week. A resident teacher hiring event is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Thursday.
Earlier this week, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight said Maryland’s largest school system is 98% staffed but working to fill hundreds of vacant, full-time teacher positions, support workers and bus drivers.
Loudoun County school officials told the school board Tuesday night that the county is nearly 98 percent staffed.