Northland Experiences Special Ed Teacher Shortage

School Districts Struggle To Fill Positions

As the students and teachers head back to class there’s one type of job in particular has become very difficult to fill.

School staff says something needs to change before it’s too late.

It’s a trend many Northland schools are seeing, fewer people willing to commit themselves to a career in special education.

“When the older special educators retired, we suddenly realized that we would still get applicants but instead of getting 10-15, we were getting maybe 2 or 3 and then some cases one,” said Hermantown Superintendent Kerry Juntunen.

Special Education teacher Katherine Rardin is just getting started in her first full year in her own classroom at Hermantown Elementary School.

“I’m drawn to kiddos that struggled a little bit, whether socially or academically,” said Rardin.

However, many schools aren’t as lucky to find highly trained candidates to fill their positions.

“There are cases you’re at the end of your time and you have to fill the position because you need to fill the places,” said Juntunen.

There is also a typical ‘five-year burn out’ and many teachers choose to leave the field.

Hermantown Special Ed teacher Elise Wrolstad says after 12 years in the field, she understands the shortage and says a large amount of regulatory paperwork the teachers must complete may be to blame.

“I would love to see policy makers, the administration and the school board come and shadow,” said Wrolstad. “Spend a day with a special ed teacher and see what really goes on.”

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