Professor predicts statewide math, science teacher shortage in Ohio

Abi Luempert

A shortage of math and science public school teachers was reported across the nation for the 2005-2006 school year, in states including Alabama, Nevada, Texas and Utah, according to an Oct. 5 article on the Heritage Foundation Web site.

Ohio is not experiencing such a shortage, said Matthew Weinstein, associate professor of science education. However, there may be shortages soon because a large amount of the current teaching population will be retiring, he said.

Judith Melillo, assistant professor of mathematics education, agrees that there is a shortage of math and science teachers outside of Ohio and the impending mass retirement will create a shortage.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” she said.

Aside from the anticipated retirement of many teachers, other problems could lead to a shortage of math and science teachers, such as pay and location of available jobs.

“Part of the problem is that those who have a tendency toward math go into engineering,” Melillo said.

She said salary is a large drawback because teachers aren’t compensated proportionally to the industry. She also said that for the amount of time and dedication teachers put into educating youth, the job doesn’t pay nearly as much as an industry job.

“Teaching is more than a calling; it’s more than a profession,” Melillo said. “No one comes for the money. They come to make a difference in the life of a student.”

Laurie Justice, junior integrated mathematics education major, always wanted to be a teacher. In high school, she had a math teacher who always made class fun, so she decided on math education, she said.

Justice said the shortage may be due to the fact that “you hear students saying they ‘hate math,’ so I don’t think you are going to pick a job that you hate. And being a math teacher, you will be doing math everyday.”

Despite Justice’s reason for the shortage, Ohio has enough willing math and science teachers, but not enough available positions, Melillo said.

States like North and South Carolina are desperate for such teachers and Melillo said about 15 students over the past three years have gone there to teach. Weinstein cited Las Vegas as another needy place for teachers.

He said Ohio has been exporting education majors to other places to fill shortages. Going elsewhere could provide perks such as sign-on bonuses and compensated moving expenses.

Justice, however, isn’t worried just yet about finding a job. Staffs at schools she has been to always tell her she won’t have a problem finding a job as a math education major.

Weinstein said some students, particularly science education majors, know they “need to leave” Ohio to get a job, so they’ll change their majors or get a different job in order to stay.

Melillo also said teachers who have taught for a long time will quit, start to collect retirement benefits and come back to schools as either substitutes or part-time or entry-level teachers.

“Before, students used to get at least two job offerings, but now, with retired teachers coming back to fill positions, there is no guarantee,” she said.

Retirees re-entering the teaching field definitely affect the employment picture, Weinstein said. The low-paying, entry-level salary can act as a supplement to their benefits earned from prior work experience.

Many teaching majors who graduate and don’t find a job in Ohio may look at moving to another state for a job, Melillo said. But many generally want to stay near family.

“I am definitely willing to leave Ohio,” Justice said. “I don’t really want to because this is where my family and friends are, but I’m willing to go anywhere.”

Contact College and Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Abi Luempert at [email protected].