Following a year of unusually high retirements and resignations, the math department was left with five open positions to fill this year. With a mix of young teachers, a long-term substitute, and a first-year teacher, the department has been able to fill all the positions.
Although most local school districts struggle to fill open positions, specifically in special education and STEM areas, state and national shortages suggest a more dire future. A study from 2018 revealed that 80 percent of California school districts have vacancies, adding to the 10,000 teachers in demand around the nation, according to NBC News. A more troubling statistic shows a 26 percent increase in teachers retiring in 2019-2020 for reasons ranging from age to recent Covid-19 related events.
Four of the five new math teachers have some previous teaching experience. First-year Integrated Math 2 teacher Drew Gillespie has a degree in statistical science but decided to pursue a career in education after not finding employment in that field. Like many teachers, Gillespie says he decided to enter the teaching field because he wants to impact his students similar to how his previous teachers impacted his life.
“I had a really good high school teacher that I’m still friends with to this day,” Gillespie said. “He kinda showed me like good math teachers, and I like math, so it’s a good place to be.”
With the math department unable to fill all of the teaching vacancies in math, long-term substitute teacher Angelica Molina accepted her position two days before school started, giving her little time to learn her schedule before the first day of school. Despite these challenges, Molina said she was fully prepared for the school year due in large part to the assistance she received from her colleagues in the department.
“The math department gave me all of their notes,” Molina said. “So I spent a lot of the time looking into that material and familiarizing myself with the subject.”
As these new teachers adjust to their first year at Bear Creek High School, the math department plans to change its teaching methods by adding more non-conventional strategies. To appeal to more students’ learning styles, the department plans their lessons together, allows students to collaborate in classwork discussions more often, and encourages communication between other math teachers for tutoring purposes.
“When [the students] are talking in groups, there’s a lot of stuff happening, different things going on,” Math Department Head Eric Vallecillo said. “I think that’s the biggest difference.”
In a department that ranges from the young to the more experienced, several math teachers say they appreciate the stronger bond in their department stemming from different pasts with one another or family connections in the math department.
“[The other teachers] are great, I am thrilled to have them,” Consumer Math teacher Michelle Pereira said. “I was excited to work with a fairly young department.”
Despite their differences in experience, the department shares a similar ideology: make kids hate math just a little less by providing a positive experience.
“I like the kids, I like the staff, the math department is super awesome,” Integrated Math 3 teacher Abigail Bates said. “I love working with them.”