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Tough assignment for local teacher addressing staff challenges in Texas

Local teacher working with educators and administrators across the state to help address staffing challenges facing Texas public schools
Posted at 6:20 AM, Nov 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-17 07:20:26-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Corpus Christi middle school teacher is working with educators and administrators across the state to help address staffing challenges that Texas public schools face.

Doctor Cynthia Hopkins has been teaching at Kaffie Middle School for 16 years. She became a part of the Teacher Vacancy Task Force (TEA) in May when members were asked to have more educators representing each region in Texas.

In the spring, TEA announced the selection of 24 additional teachers for the group.

The addition of the educators expanded the teacher-chaired Task Force to 52 members, with 26 teachers and 26 school system administrators constituting the membership of a statewide task force charged with identifying solutions to address ongoing school staffing challenges.

Hopkins's experience has led her to observations, shared by many other educators.

"We had a problem before COVID. COVID just exasperated the fact that there's not enough teachers," she said.

The science teacher said the problem can't be narrowed down to one source.

Because Texas' population is growing, more students are filling classrooms and there aren't enough people pursuing education as a career.

Another challenge is teacher retention. According to data from the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT), 43,000 teachers in the Lone Star state resigned or retired since the last school year.

AFT also had a survey which shows 66 percent of 3,800 members said they had considered leaving their job in the last year. Low wages, workload stress, and health and safety were the main concerns.

Doctor Hopkins echoed those concerns. However, when asked what kept her around as an educator for almost two decades, she said the answer was simple but hard to say without feeling strong emotions.

"I do it for my kids. I know they will change the world," she responded teary-eyed. "I have seen it — I have students who have graduated from college, and I see what they're doing, awesome amazing things.

Hopkins also said teaching gave her a purpose to push forward. She was diagnosed with a type of breast cancer last year, two days before Christmas.

Since her cancer diagnosis, Hopkins has been going through treatment and hopes to be in remission by Thanksgiving.

"My kids, they gave me strength," she said.

Hopkins said she hopes others will learn of the joys of a career in education.

She believes more programs are needed to inspire youth to become the next generation of educators. She recommends expanding residency programs and high school programs.

During the task force's recent meeting in October, members discussed priorities such as increasing the quality of healthcare for teachers, increasing the base pay rate for all educators, and covering the cost for retired educators and rehires.

To see learn more click here to see notes from the meeting.

The task force has been meeting once a month since it was established.

It will have one final meeting in February. They will present their findings to the Texas Education Agency's Commissioner.

From there, recommendations will be handed to the State Legislature for consideration. The Legislative session begins in January. Hopkins said if a person wants something to change, they need to reach out to their state representatives.