A double header weekend of interviews...
...We start with a weekend interview with Florida’s chief educator recruiter, Kathy Hebda, who was in Tampa on Friday for the Great Florida Teach-In, the state’s annual job fair, which drew more than 18,000 candidates. Come back tomorrow to learn why Jade Moore, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, finds so much to hate in the property tax constitutional amendment.
First Hebda shares her pitch for becoming a teacher in Florida...
How many teachers does Florida need this year?
We need approximately 16,000 or more — 16,000 to 18,000.
Are there any particular areas where you need them?
Exceptional student education, math, science, English for speakers of other languages.
Within each district, they have certain special needs too... Those vary by district, and all those kids need a good teacher too.
Growth has slowed. In some counties, there’s even declining enrollment. Why does Florida still need 16,000 to 18,000 teachers?
We are on the leading edge of the baby boomer retirements, just like the rest of the country. With a state as large as ours, just numbers wise, that’s going to rack up a lot of numbers in retirements.
The majority of the need this year is really due to people leaving a position, whether for retirement, moving to a different school, all those sorts of things.
Why should somebody from out of state come and teach in Florida?
How much time do you have? That’s my favorite question.
We have a really student-centered education system. Whether you’re a teacher, a principal, a teacher’s aide, anybody who works in the school system at the district office, the focus is on helping every single student learn.
When you combine that with a state that has so much more than beautiful beaches — we have such a rich cultural diversity, diversity in arts, and big cities, small towns. We have everything anybody would think of that they would want to have a really great lifestyle in Florida.
And then we have such a professional education system that has nationally recognized professional development for teachers and principals. We have many kinds of bonuses teachers can get on top of their teachers’ salary.
Excellent teachers can find their place in Florida. That’s what we promote because we’re looking for the very best teachers we can find, and so we target those things that would rally mean something to a really excellent teacher.
What you would tell somebody who is currently in another career track who is thinking about whether they would like to come and be a teacher?
If they are focused on children, and they understand that it’s something that takes all of their intellect, their talent, their capability — but they’re going to get the biggest rewards from this they can ever imagine — then teaching may be for them.