Teacher shortage causes spike in 'emergency' teaching licenses in Wisconsin

NOW: Teacher shortage causes spike in ’emergency’ teaching licenses in Wisconsin

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- A shortage of teachers in classrooms across the nation has become a growing problem, and in Wisconsin, thousands of "emergency" teaching licenses have been issued to address the ongoing issue.

Nabeel Deane spoke to CBS 58 about his recent change in career paths. He is one of thousands of newly certified teachers in the state and is now a full-time substitute teacher at Cudahy High School.

"I didn't have any teaching experience prior to this substitute teaching job that I'm in now," he said.

Deane said he graduated college with a bachelor's degree in TV production and was an editor for years. Late last year, he quit his job and quickly applied to become a substitute teacher and work his way toward obtaining what's commonly referred to as an "emergency" teaching license to fill the growing vacancies in classrooms.

"Watching videos on, like, you know, how to be a substitute teacher, you know?" he giggled. "Because I never had that sort of educational training."

Deane said his wife has been a 2nd grade teacher in the school district for about six years now, and always encouraged him to seek his passion, but the workload and the amount of time it would take for him to get there was a turn off.

"My wife had been talking to me for years about doing the teaching thing, but that would mean I would have to either go back to school or have to, you know, spend more money to take, like, online classes or, you know, in-person classes, which is time and money," he explained.

Wisconsin is steadily losing teachers in their first five years of employment, according to a January 2023 report from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

"There has been a significant drop in enrollments that we're just starting to climb back out of, so we are just now getting to the level of enrollments in teacher preparation that we saw back in 2008," said Jennifer Kammerud, the LEAD (Licensing, Educator Advancement, and Development) director at the state's DPI.

She told CBS 58 that since 2018, the application process in Wisconsin has become flexible.

In fact, during the 2021-2022 school year, about 3,197 emergency licenses were issued in Wisconsin.

One may apply to different types of licenses, including: 'One-Year License with Stipulations,' 'One-Year License with Stipulations for Speech and Language Pathology,' or 'Three-Year License with Stipulations.'

"They said, 'It's going to take about eight hours.' It took me about four-and-a-half hours, right, online. I got the certification, went through and did all the paperwork, I applied for a couple (of) different jobs and was immediately offered, like recruited," Deane said.

The minimum requirement is a bachelor's degree in any subject, but certain vocational and technical teaching licenses don't even require as much.

"Can anyone teach anything? No," explained Kammerud. "You get a license in a subject area and for a grade range."

But some, especially parents, might still be skeptical of such a speedy process.

"There is also that factor of like, you know, the unnerving, I guess of knowing that it wasn't as difficult as I thought it was, you know. My wife went to school for six years," Deane compared.

But Kammerud assures that even though the process may be different, that does not mean those who apply are unqualified.

"All of that flexibility and that work was geared towards meeting the needs of our schools," added Kammerud. "Our school districts needed additional options to bring in qualified and high-quality people, and we needed to ensure that in doing so, that they were fully trained and meeting the standards that we would expect from a teacher."

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