Thunderbolt Teachers Migrated South for Classroom Opportunity; for Teaching Jobs, Employment Comes Down to Location and Need

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTA HIEBER

Lindsay Willson couldn't find a teaching job in Ohio where she finished college.

"There's no growth, and the schools are kind of on a good-ol'-boys network, where if you're in, you're in for life," she said. "Nobody ever moves. Nobody ever relocates. There's really just no opportunity."

So she relocated to Clay County, where the population is booming and schools are bursting.

Clay school system officials are forced to go out of state to recruit new teachers, said Neil Sanders, the school system's director of instructional personnel services, who often travels to universities in the Northeast and Midwest in search of teachers.

With OakLeaf School opening last year and Coppergate Elementary opening in August, the Clay County school district is adding 400 teachers to its teaching staff of nearly 3,000.

"We tend to get more [teachers] from Michigan because they're closing down schools where they're not enrolled highly," Sanders said. "We also go to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts - places that have large numbers of teacher prep programs and few jobs available."

Sanders said the First Coast area has few teacher prep programs and few education graduates from the existing programs at the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University.

"There's many more teacher education programs up north," he said.

Willson is a second-grade teacher at Thunderbolt Elementary School in Fleming Island. Despite leaving her small Ohio town, Willson says she likes the class sizes but doesn't like the portables or the amount of teachers per grade level. …

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